Cause of Fatal Florida Building Collapse Remains a Mystery
With the June 13 recovery of the body of a trapped worker following a boiler structure collapse in St. Petersburg, Fla., company and government officials will switch their focus to finding the accident’s cause.
Around 5 p.m., rescue workers recovered the body of Clark White, 65, a welder employed by Frontier Industrial Corp. of Buffalo, N.Y., which was the contractor. It was dismantling retired No. 3 boiler structure at the Progress Energy Florida’s Paul L. Bartow Power Plant on Weedon Island.
The company had scheduled a controlled, mechanical dismantling for 8:30 p.m., June 9th, and White, 65, of Moundsville, W. Va., was cutting steel support columns in preparation. Robert Zuchlewski, chief operating officer of Frontier Industrial, indicated the activity was considered normal for this type of project.
At 7:15 p.m. on the night of the scheduled demolition, the building unexpectedly collapsed, trapping White inside, says Tim Leljedal, spokesman for Progress Energy in Lake Mary, Fla. Neither Leljedal nor Zuchlewski would speculate on possible causes.
White was the only person in that part of the building at the time of the incident. Twenty-one Progress Energy workers and contractors were on site at the time. Other Frontier Industrial employees recalled hearing White call for them to get out.
The collapse created a 60-ft tall pile of rubble through which crews with dogs searched for four days. They found White’s body about 15 ft into the structure, after cutting a hole in an I-beam and inserting a camera into the rubble, said Incident Commander Alan Rosetti, St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue division chief, at a press conference. Progress Energy provided heavy equipment and a plant engineer to assist the fire department.
The No. 3 boiler section, the first boiler at the site to be dismantled, was a 180-ft structure with a 10,000-sq-ft base, which accounted for approximately 25% of the overall plant structure. Progress Energy has been working to dismantle the steam plant, following the completion of a new 1,200-mw combined-cycle plant at that location.
Progress Energy selected Frontier “using a competitive bidding process that took into account such criteria as the contractor’s safety and performance records and its level of experience performing the required work,” Leljedal says.
Frontier Industrial performs similar mechanical dismantling of large-scale utilities in live and idle settings throughout North America, including powerplant take-downs, petrochemical facilities and steel plants. White had eight years experience with the firm and 15 years in the industry.
This is the second fatality this year at a Progress Energy location. Cory Rogers, 25, a technician at the company’s 600-mw Sutton Plant near Wilmington, N.C., was killed in March following an explosion while he was performing maintenance at the coal-fired plant.