Two people were killed and three were hurt when a steam pipe exploded at a Veterans Affairs hospital facility in Connecticut Friday morning, authorities said.
A contractor and a hospital employee who were working on a “regularly scheduled replacement" of a leaky steam pipe were pronounced dead shortly after the blast, said Alfred Montoya Jr., the medical center’s director.
The explosion happened around 8 a.m. in the basement of an outer building of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System’s West Haven campus, about 70 miles northeast of Manhattan. The facility does not house any patients.
Three hospital employees sustained minor injuries, Montoya told reporters at a news conference Friday afternoon. None of the victims' names were immediately released, but Montoya said the employee who died was a Navy veteran.
The exact cause of the blast is still under investigation, though Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal said the building’s age and deteriorating condition might have played a role. The campus was built in the 1940s and ’50s, according to officials.
“This is a profoundly sad and tragic day for everyone in Connecticut and everyone around the country who cares about veterans," said Blumenthal, who’s a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
The other U.S. senator for the state, Chris Murphy, said the incident is a sad reminder of the risks health workers face on the job.
“Working at a hospital is dangerous any day of the week any year,” he told reporters. "You’re putting yourself in contact with potential virus and disease and infection. Working at a hospital in 2020 is particularly dangerous.
“Every single day, the maintenance workers, the nurses, the doctors, the administrative staff who go into the doors on this campus are putting their safety on the line, the safety of their family on the line in the middle of a pandemic,” he said. “And while you never expect an accident like this, the fact that it occurs on a hospital campus is yet another reminder of the debt of gratitude that we owe to everyone who works in health care in any capacity.”
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont issued a statement on Twitter.
“This is a heartbreaking tragedy," he said, “and I have instructed our state agencies to provide full resources as the response and investigation continues.”