Ohio Power Plant Blast Kills 1, Hurts 9

The Associated Press
Monday, January 8, 2007; 10:33 PM

BEVERLY, Ohio -- An explosion at a coal-burning power plant killed a worker delivering pressurized hydrogen and injured nine others Monday, authorities said.

Officials weren't sure what caused the blast outside the Muskingum River Plant, said Vikki Michalski, a spokeswoman for American Electric Power.

"It was real strong," said Doug Burke, who was operating a front-end loader about a half-mile from the plant. "I felt it inside my loader, and I looked up and saw smoke and then fire, and then after that steam."

Although hydrogen gas is highly explosive, it is used to cool steam generators at the plant because it has a high capacity for heat and is more efficient than using air.

Nine workers were treated at hospitals, mostly for cuts and bruises, authorities said. None of the injuries was considered life-threatening.

Drumand McLaughlin, 49, was just inside the plant when the truck pulled up and the blast wrenched his shoulder and back.

"I heard an explosion; that's the last thing I remember," said McLaughlin of nearby Caldwell. He was treated at Marietta Memorial Hospital and released.

There was no major damage to the plant, where 210 people work, officials said.

There are just a handful of homes and businesses near the plant.

Killed was Lewis Timmons, 61, of Middlebourne, W.Va., the Washington County Sheriff's Office said. Timmons worked for General Hydrogen in Middlebourne.

American Electric Power is one of the nation's largest power generators, with more than 5 million customers in 11 states.

The plant, which is near the West Virginia border and about 100 miles southeast of Columbus, continued to produce electricity after the explosion although the unit near the blast was shut down.

© 2007 The Associated Press