Waste to Energy Plant accident victims remain in critical condition

Waste to Energy Plant accident victims remain in critical condition

The names of two City of Spokane employees critically injured in a Waste to Energy Plant accident were released on Wednesday.

The men are Larry Pratt, 48, and Craig Law, 39.

Just before 10 a.m. on Tuesday, one of the incinerator's boilers exposed the two men to a blast of 212° F steam while Pratt and Law were performing routine maintenance.

Both men are still in critical condition, and both still heavily sedated as doctors are trying to pour enough fluids back into their bodies to keep circulatory systems flowing.

Harborview officials told KXLY4 that how their patients respond in the next 24 hours can make or break their recovery.

They were two guys heading to work on a rainy Tuesday morning.

Their first assignment: repair a leak in one of the steel pipes that carries water through the incinerator's flame-filled boilers.

"It happens, occasionally," said Scott Simmons, Director of Public Works for the City of Spokane. "These things are under some serious heat and pressure on a regular basis. One of the boiler tubes was discovered to have a leak. The boiler was shut down."

Larry Pratt and Craig Law climbed inside the boiler, but before they could repair the leak, something happened.

"A piece of very molten hot remnants from the procedures there in the boiler, vaporized with water and caused the burns, so they were indeed steam burns, as I think somebody already reported," said Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer with the Spokane Fire Department.

Pratt and Law were flown to Harborview Medical Center along with their spouses.

The City of Spokane's human resources director caught the next available flight. The city even hired a nurse practitioner to help keep the victim's families informed about how the injured men are doing.

"Now they are asking for some private time, and that really makes sense to us, so we are there and available for whatever they need," said Marlene Feist with the City of Spokane.

Labor and industries officials are investigating the accident. The incinerator has an impressive safety record. It's inspected annually and one of only 32 businesses statewide, awarded Washington State Labor & Industries' voluntary protection program.

"Basically we've taken voluntary, additional steps to make sure that our employees are trained, to make sure we have proper procedures in place, to make sure we are running that facility as safely as we can," said Feist.

And paramedics say it was that training and availability of emergency showers to immediately cool down the victim's burns that have given Pratt and Law a fighting chance to recover from their injuries. But they may be so badly burned inside and outside their bodies, that might not happen.

Counseling is being offered to their co-workers at the Waste to Energy Plant, both now and in the future. Enough of them were ready to come back to work today to reopen the incinerator to commercial and residential dumping.

The boiler where the men were injured is still off-line and still needs that leaky pipe repaired.