Victims identified after industrial incident at TECO’s Big Bend Power Plant

APOLLO BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) – The names of the victims from Thursday’s industrial incident at Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Plant were released by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. All next of kin were notified.

  • Christopher Irvin (Deceased) age 40, of Tampa
  • Michael McCort  (Deceased) age 60, of Riverview
  • Gary Marine Jr. (life-threatening injuries) age 32, of Tampa
  • Antonio Navarrete (life-threatening injuries) age 21, of Wimauma
  • Frank Lee Jones (life-threatening injuries) age 55, of Tampa
  • Armando J Perez (life-threatening injuries) age 56, of Wimauma

“Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with the families of everyone who was touched by this incident,” said Gordon Gillete, president and CEO of Tampa Electric. “Safety is the No. 1 priority at Tampa Electric, and we are working hard to determine exactly what happened and why. We will be conducting a complex investigation to determine the root cause.”

One of the men killed was a TECO employee. All of the other victims were contractors working at the plant.

Gillete said there were courageous efforts in the plant to save the employees and contractors. The injured remain at Tampa General Hospital.

TECO and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are working together to investigate what happened at the Big Bend Power Plant in Apollo Beach at about 4 p.m. Thursday. OSHA responds when there are work-related deaths or hospitalizations.

It was initially reported as an explosion by authorities, but TECO said it was a release of the molten slag, a leftover by-product from coal boilers at the plant.

What happened:

  • Coal-fired furnace burning above
  • The left over by-product drips down into slag tank below, which contains water
  • The burn-off crystallizes into slag – a crunchy glass-like material
  • The material is still molten hot at that time
  • That’s what spilled onto the employee and contractors

Workers were trying to unplug a hole in the slag tank at Big Bend Unit 2 when the material spilled out. There was vast quantity of slag on the floor – “6-inches deep and 40-feet in diameter,” Gillete said.

The OSHA inspectors were going over a long list of safety and health standards to see whether TECO may have violated standards that could have led to the incident.

“It’s the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe and healthful workplace,” said OSHA spokesman Michael D’Aquino.

Right now, OSHA still has an open investigation, looking into a chemical exposure incident that happened at the plant on May 24. That incident involved the release of Anhydrous ammonia that caused four employees to be hospitalized.

This latest investigation is expected to take several weeks.

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