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Firms fined for Bakersfield plant implosion that injured spectators

Firms fined for Bakersfield plant implosion that injured spectators
Explosions bring down the empty Pacific Gas & Electric power plant in Bakersfield on Aug. 3, 2013. (Autumn Parry / Associated Press)

State regulators have fined two subcontractors who planned the implosion of an old power plant in Bakersfield last summer that sent shards of debris into a crowd of spectators, severing one man's leg and injuring others.

California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued two citations against Alpha Explosives Inc. totaling $14,400 for failing to blast a warning signal and for not obtaining a permit before the demolition. Demtech Inc. received fines totaling $14,000 for the same violations, in addition to citations for failing to follow proper procedures.

Several thousand people gathered early on Aug. 3 outside a 1,000-foot safety perimeter to watch the planned implosion of a closed steam power plant owned by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. Explosive charges placed at crucial points in the building were detonated in a pattern meant to bring it down on itself in a heap of rubble and a cloud of dust.

But pieces of metal flew from inside the plant during the implosion, striking a 43-year-old man and severing part of one of his legs, and seriously injuring another spectator, according to Bakersfield police.

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At least two other people suffered minor lacerations from metal pieces. Vehicles parked nearby were hit with debris as well.

Cal/OSHA also determined that Demtech's actions also put two Bakerfield police officers and a worker with Cleveland Wrecking in danger, saying the firm failed to "effectively implement procedures to identify and evaluate" the workplace hazards associated with their method of demolition, according to the citation, which was issued on Thursday.

A representative for Demtech could not be immediately reached Tuesday, and a person reached at Alpha Explosives hung up the phone.

The two companies have 15 business days to appeal state regulator's decision.

Twitter: LATangel

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