SHIPPINGPORT, Pa. (KDKA) – Two workers are dead and three others were being treated for injuries after a gas leak early Wednesday morning at the Bruce Mansfield Power Station in Shippingport, Beaver County.
Pennsylvania State Police say troopers and emergency crews were called to the power plant around 1:15 a.m. The plant is owned by FirstEnergy and employs about 350 workers.
According to State Police, the Enerfab workers were doing contract work with Penn Energy at the plant. They were working in a well-type area to remove an elbow joint from a pipe.
Two men were in a pit below, one was on a ladder and the other two were about 20 to 50 feet on a wall above.
When they removed the elbow joint, it released hydrogen sulfide gas.
“The line was not supposed to be charged, obviously. They got to the last bolt to crack it open and when they did so, this nauseous gas… hydrogen sulfide type mixture immediately incapacitates you,” State Police Lt. Eric Hermick said.
Two of the five workers were unable to make it out of the well and died as a result. They have been identified as Kevin Bachner, 34, of Pittsburgh, and John Gorchock, 42, of Pittsburgh.
Three other workers inhaled the gas, but were able to get out of the well. They were transported by helicopter and ambulance to nearby medical facilities.
They have been identified as Mark Wagner, 31, of Pulaski; Thomas Cantwell, 31, of Crafton; and Michael Gorchock, 43, of Pittsburgh.
One was taken to Heritage Valley Hospital in Beaver. The other two were being treated at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.
News of the accident hit especially hard at the Boilermakers Union Hall on Banksville Road. John Gorchock’s wife, Lisa, is on the staff there.
Family friend Anthony Sabat says, “John was a great human being who loved his family. His wife Lisa and three kids were top priority, second to none. John was easy to get along with, funny, happy all the way around.”
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As for Bachner, friends say he was about as “Pittsburgh” as you can get. He was a devoted husband and a proud father of two, ages 1 and 3.
His friend Tony Kostelnik says, “He loved his family, he loved all sports. He worked hard for this family and traveled a long ways for some jobs for them. So sad it had to end that way.”
Three members of the Boilermakers crew survived, including Gorchock’s brother, Michael, who is in Allegheny General Hospital along with Wagner, both are listed in stable condition at Allegheny General.
Cantwell was taken to Heritage Valley Beaver, where he was treated and released. Back home in Ingram, Cantwell is resting and not wanting to talk about what happened.
He said, “I really don’t want to think about it, I lost some very good friends today.”
“This plant has a terrific work history. They’re very safety conscious. It’s surprising that something like this happened. It must have been a real unexpected mishap,” Rohn Sambol said.
State police say first responders did all they could to rescue the men that were trapped, but it was too late.
“It’s probably second-worst type of situation to respond to because you want to help somebody that’s in a life-threatening situation. But, you already see that there’s people that are down that already tried to get over to them or that are close to it. That’s heart-wrenching. I compare that to going into a school shooting,” Lt. Hermick said.
FirstEnergy has released the following statement:
“We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those who died in this tragic accident. Our thoughts and prayers are also with those who were injured, and we wish them a quick recovery.”
A FirstEnergy spokeswoman said there was absolutely no danger to other workers in the plant or people living in the surrounding area following the incident.
The Bruce Mansfield Power Station is FirstEnergy’s largest coal-fired power plant. It’s located along the Ohio River, approximately 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.
OSHA will also be investigating the incident.
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