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Mourners Grieve At Funerals For Connecticut Workers Who Died In Power Plant Explosion
Hundreds of mourners attended funerals around the state Saturday for three Connecticut pipe fitters who were killed in the Kleen Energy plant explosion in Middletown Feb. 7.
More than 120 people paid their respects for Ronald Crabb, 42, who was active in local politics, at a funeral Mass at St. Andrew Church in Colchester. Crabb, a family man and avid outdoorsman, served on the Democratic town committee and board of finance and was married to local probate judge Jodi M. Thomas.
About 300 people said goodbye to Raymond E. Dobratz Jr., 58, at First Church of Christ Congregational in Old Saybrook. Friends and family hugged each other while "Amazing Grace" played as the casket was carried out of the church. Dobratz was a well-known figure in town as a coach and a co-founder of the Old Saybrook Youth Football Athletic League. He formerly served on the police and park and recreation commissions and the Democratic town committee.
And about 275 people said goodbye to Peter C. Chepulis, 48, an outdoorsman who enjoyed riding Harleys, at St. Thomas Church in Thomaston.
The cause of the explosion continues to be investigated. The blast killed five people, injured 27 and heavily damaged the plant, which had been scheduled to go online this summer. The explosion occurred when a natural gas pipeline was being purged.
Meanwhile, environmental cleanup crews at the site Saturday began burning off fuel tanks deemed too dangerous to transport safely for disposal. The procedure was expected to generate black smoke and was expected to last all afternoon and possibly continue today.
A crew from Clean Harbors, a Houston-based environmental cleanup company, was burning off acetylene and other gases in about 40 damaged tanks, a process called "flaring off," Middletown police spokesman Marc Fongemie said. Anyone who sees the smoke should not worry, said, because the process is well controlled and being closely monitored by fire officials.
"Don't panic. We do have a firetruck standing by," Fongemie said.