Animation Re-Enacts Deadly Underground Plant Fire

5 People Died At Hydroelectic Plant

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has released a video preview of its report into a deadly accident at Xcel's hydroelectric plant in Georgetown.

On Oct. 2, 2007, five people were killed and three others injured when a fire erupted 1,000 feet underground in a tunnel at Xcel Energy Company's Cabin Creek Station.

The video re-enacts CSB's version of how the accident occurred and shows the men walking into the dark and working underground, as well as the explosion and then the men running for their lives.

The video is called "No Escape: Dangers of Confined Spaces."

The full video, final report and formal CSB safety recommendations will be released in their entirety Wednesday.

The Denver Post obtained a draft of the report earlier this month. The report accused Xcel Energy and contractor RPI Coating of ignoring worker safety. It said that a lack of planning for hazardous work and inadequate contractor selection were among problems that contributed to the accident.

The five men were working in a large, drained water pipe, called a penstock, that guides water downhill to a turbine that is attached to an electrical generator that produces electricity. They were repairing lining in the penstock, replacing it with a new epoxy liner that protects the steel tunnel from water.

However, when one of the liners was sprayed, it ignited a chemical solvent vapor, starting a fire. There was only one viable exit in the penstock, located at the lower end, but the fire blocked it.

The men retreated up the penstock, but were unable to get past the 55-degree incline section. The men survived inside the penstock for about one hour before dying from asphyxiation due to inhalation of carbon monoxide produced by the fire.

Several RPI Coating employees located on the other side of the fire escaped the penstock and lived.