Four Victims Of Kleen Energy Blast Seek Court Order To Preserve Evidence
By By EDMUND H. MAHONY
Mar 02, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Four victims of the Kleen Energy power plant explosion in Middletown applied for a court order Monday to prohibit any alteration of the blast site or related evidence until both are examined by experts hired by their lawyers.
Lawyers for the four said they need at least 30 days "to examine critical evidence regarding the cause of the explosion and any negligence or carelessness" that might have resulted in injury or death.
The Feb. 7 explosion killed six construction workers and injured 26. Preliminary investigation and accounts by survivors suggest that the explosion occurred when a massive accumulation of natural gas released during an operation to clear gas pipelines was ignited by one of several possible sources.
Such judicial efforts by victims or their families to secure the scenes of fatal explosions or fires are routine. A similar order was obtained following the 2003 fire that killed 100 at The Station nightclub in Warwick, R.I.
Attorneys Robert I. Reardon Jr. of New London and M. Hatcher Norris of West Hartford sought the court order Monday at Superior Court in Middletown.
Reardon has said he might sue for damages against the owners and builders of the natural gas-fired electric generating plant on behalf of Joseph Scovish and Kenneth Meloney, pipe fitters from Montville, and Dennis Riley, an electrician from Manchester.
The three men were not inside the plant's main power block building, the area that is believed to have experienced the greatest force of the blast. Reardon said the three were outdoors in the vicinity of the power block building or in nearby construction trailers. The explosion knocked all three unconscious, and they have been unable to work while being treated for neck, back, head and arm injuries, Reardon said.
Norris represents the estate of Peter C. Chepulis of Thomaston, who died of injuries he sustained while working inside the power block building. Chepulis was a pipe fitter.
The power plant was more than 90 percent complete.
The pipe fitters were working for Keystone Construction and Maintenance Services of Massachusetts, which was subcontracted to install piping systems designed to deliver natural gas to the plant's electricity-generating turbines. Riley was working for Ducci Electrical Contractors Inc. of Torrington, another subcontractor.
O & G Industries of Torrington is the general contractor.
Authorities in Middletown completed their on-scene investigation of the explosion Friday and returned control of the blast site to O & G. Reardon and Norris said their court order, if granted, would force construction workers or plant owners to delay any activity that could affect the integrity of evidence while victims retain experts for an independent review.
"If they don't, they will be jeopardizing the evidence and that will be used against them," Reardon said.
The lawyers said the order should apply to the blast site as well up to 75 pieces of evidence collected by government investigators. State and federal authorities have joined those in Middletown in trying to determine the cause of the explosion.
com/explosion to view previous coverage of the Middletown plant explosion, including videos, pictures and graphics.
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