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Investigation Launched Into Bakersfield Demolition Accident

YouTube user Doug Winston

State officials have launched an investigation into a demolition accident at a former PG&E power plant in Bakersfield which injured several bystanders on Saturday.

Demolition contractors had planned to use explosives to topple two large structures at the plant just south of Rosedale Highway at Coffee Road. But the blast sent debris and shrapnel beyond the 1000 foot safety zone setup by officials, striking people who had gathered to watch the explosion. One curious onlooker at a local store was seriously injured, having his leg amputated, and four others also sustained injuries.

Erika Monterroza, spokeswoman with CAL/OSHA, says that an order to preserve the grounds where the demolition happened is in place.

“We’re going to be looking at what exactly what occurred and the companies safety procedures for their worksites to see if there were any violations of California’s Occupational Safety and Health regulations,” Monterroza says.

"If there were violations it's the employer that will be cited and there will be monetary penalties accessed based on the nature of the violation," - Erika Monterroza

Monterroza says that if evidence of neglect or fault are found then Alpha Explosives, the responsible employer, will be fined up to $25,000 for a serious violation and if willful intent is found the company will be fined up to $70,000.

“If there were violations it’s the employer that will be cited and there will be monetary penalties accessed based on the nature of the violation and the employer will have to correct those violations in a specific time period,” Monterroza says.

The investigation will include interviews with workers and witnesses, a review of safety records, as well as lab analysis if needed.

CAL/OSHA has up to six months to finish their review. 


Ezra David Romero is an award-winning radio reporter and producer. His stories have run on Morning Edition, Morning Edition Saturday, Morning Edition Sunday, All Things Considered, Here & Now, The Salt, Latino USA, KQED, KALW, Harvest Public Radio, etc.