Authorities looking for the cause of an explosion that killed five people at a power plant under construction launched a criminal investigation Monday, saying they could not rule out criminal negligence as the cause.
"If everything went right, we wouldn't all be here right now," Middletown Mayor Sebastian Guiliano said. "There's a point where negligence raises to the level of criminal conduct, and that's what we're investigating."
The powerful explosion blew apart large swaths of the nearly completed 620-megawatt Kleen Energy plant as workers for the construction company O&G Industries Inc. were purging a gas line Sunday morning. The blast tore apart sheet metal that covered the plant's sides and left parts of the complex so unstable that rescuers were unable to work Monday because of the danger of collapse.
The mayor said rescue crews had been unable to get to all areas of the plant and he could not say for certain that no more victims would be found. But authorities also said every worker who was assigned to work at the plant at the time of the explosion was accounted for.
Deputy Fire Marshal Al Santostefano said the death toll should stand at five.
"We needed something to lift spirits around here, and that definitely did it," he said.
The men who died were identified by Middletown police Monday as Peter Chetulis of Thomaston, Conn.; Ronald J. Crabb of Colchester, Conn.; Raymond Dobratz of Old Saybrook, Conn.; Chris Walters of Florissant, Mo.; and Roy Rushton of Hamilton, Ontario.
Kleen Energy said about 114 workers for nine subcontractors were on the site at the time. The company said six workers were still hospitalized Monday.
More than two dozen people were injured in the blast, according to hospitals in the area. Most were treated and released and had injuries characteristic of being thrown or in an explosion, such as broken bones and bruises, said Melissa Brady, a spokeswoman for Middlesex Hospital.
They were all expected to survive, she said.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell ordered a review of state safety codes on Monday. She created two panels, one to identify the cause and origin of the explosion and contributing factors, such as construction problems, worker safety issues and licensing or permitting matters. The other, a panel of state agencies, local officials and experts, will be charged with reviewing the first panel's report and determining whether changes need to be made to Connecticut laws, state or local regulations, building or fire codes.
Rell did not give a timetable but said the reviews need to be "impartial and swift."
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