Four workers still hospitalized after deadly TECO plant accident

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The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has identified the two workers killed in yesterday’s Tampa Electric power plant accident.  Meanwhile, the company is offering “continued thoughts and prayers” the families of all six victims.

Michael McCort of Riverview, a 60-year-old TECO employee, and Christopher Irvin of Tampa, a 40-year-old contractor, were both killed by the accident that shut down a section of the Big Bend Power Station Thursday afternoon.    

Four workers remain in the hospital receiving treatment for life-threatening injuries, including burns. Deputies identified them as Gary Marine Jr., Antonio Navarrete, Frank Lee Jones, and Armando J. Perez.

TECO president Gordon Gillette said the accident happened during routine maintenance of a slag tank in the bottom of a boiler. The employees were working to unclog blockage at bottom of the tank, which collects the glass-like material left behind by burning coal when a “large amount” of the hot slag was released.

The cause of the accident is not yet clear, and the victims were the only witnesses. TECO says it expects an investigation will take weeks or possibly months to determine what happened.

“We will learn from this incident,” Gillette pledged.

McCort was a senior plant operator who was approaching his 35th anniversary with the company. Gillette called his death a “huge loss.”

“He was well respected and well-liked by all of his team members,” Gillette said.

An employee assistance program has been activated for workers and families affected.

The Big Bend plant is the largest of three power plants operated by TECO. The blast impacted one of four units at the facility, but officials say it did not cause any outages or major threats to the public or the environment.