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    Two workers die after being buried in a 60-foot coal pile collapse at Pueblo plant


    June 6, 2022 - The Denver Post

     

      The bodies of two workers who were buried in coal pile collapse at the Comanche power plant in Pueblo have been recovered.

      The incident happened about 8:40 a.m. at the Comanche Generating Station at 2005 Lime Road in Pueblo, fire spokesman Erik Duran said. A 911 caller reported that multiple people were trapped in coal "following a landslide," he said.

      About 4:30 p.m. the bodies of two men, one in his 20s and the other in his 30s, were recovered from "beneath 60 feet of coal," Duran said.

      The Pueblo County coroner's office has taken possession of the bodies. Their identities will be released at a later time.

      "Our thoughts and prayers to out to their families and their coworkers," Duran said.

      A rescue team arrived at the plant within 10 minutes of being notified and began working to free the two victims, Duran said. There was no communication between rescuers and the people trapped.

      The plant is owned and operated by Xcel Energy, but the two workers killed were employees of Savage, a company that contracts with Xcel to operate the coal yard at the plant, Xcel spokeswoman Lacey Nygard said.

      "Savage has served as a long-term contractor partner that operates and maintains the coal yard at Comanche and our other coal plants," she said in an email. "Savage manages all of the onsite operations; hiring, training and maintaining staff and equipment and coal operations at the Comanche plant coal yard."

      Jeff Hymas, a spokesman for Savage, confirmed that two Savage employees were trapped and said the incident happened about 8:20 a.m. Hymas said employees launched rescue efforts immediately. The rescue attempt was ongoing at 12:45 p.m.

      Duran said the incident occurred at an outdoor "feeder pile" for the furnaces.

      The coal pile is made up of a combination of lumps of coal and finer, more gravel or dust-like particles, Duran said, adding that both suffocation and crushing were a concern.

      This year Xcel Energy agreed to close the coal-fired power plant, which has longstanding mechanical and operational problems, by the beginning of 2031 as part of a deal between the company, businesses, environmental organizations and several local governments.

      Shelly Bradbury: 303-954-1785, sbradbury@denverpost.com or @shellybradbury

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