2 dead, 1 missing after steam pipe explosion at VA hospital in West Haven, officials say

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At least two people were killed and another is missing in an explosion Friday at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Connecticut, officials said.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement that the explosion occurred at the West Haven campus of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System.

“Neither of the victims were VA patients and patient care was not affected. Emergency personnel are on the scene,” the statement said. “Our prayers are with the families of the victims of this explosion.”

Max Reiss, a spokesman for Gov. Ned Lamont, said a third person was missing.

A spokesperson at the West Haven Fire Department confirmed to USA TODAY that an explosion had occurred. The television station WTNH reported that smoke could be seen rising from the building.

Veterans Affairs Police guard the entrance to a maintenance facility where two workers died and a third person is missing after an apparent steam explosion in a maintenance building at a Veterans Affairs hospital in West Haven, Conn., Friday, Nov. 13, 2020.

The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest Veterans Affairs union, said in a statement that a steam pipe caused the explosion. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the two workers who were killed as a result of this tragic event,” the group’s president, Everett Kelley, said in a statement. 

An unnamed law enforcement official who spoke with The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity said that the deaths happened in a maintenance area.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said a VA employee and contractor were the two fatalities. Their names have not been released.

“This kind of explosion may have been the result of a mechanical failure or a mistake on the part of someone at the VA. We have no firm facts as yet,” Blumenthal said.

The contractor who died worked for Mulvaney Mechanical, based in Danbury, Connecticut, said company Vice President Charles Brough.

Charlie Grady, an FBI spokesperson in New Haven, said state police were leading the investigation and the FBI would assist as needed.

Jay Radcliffe, 52, who works at an animal clinic across the street from the facility, said he heard the sirens as he walked out the backdoor of the clinic to grab breakfast Friday morning.

“When I was walking I saw all the engines and everything flying up the hill,” he told USA TODAY. Radcliffe, who said he used to work as a volunteer firefighter with West Haven fire, said he spotted a fire engine, two ladder trucks and a rescue truck.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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