2 Killed, 4 Injured in Industrial Accident at Florida Power Plant

An industrial accident at a Florida power plant Thursday killed two people and seriously injured four others, officials said.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon said emergency workers responded to afternoon calls about an explosion at the Tampa Electric Co. plant in Apollo Beach. The accident's cause wasn't immediately known, but McKinnon said authorities quickly ruled out terrorism.

"They were all contractors doing routine maintenance, and something happened," he said.

Two people were pronounced dead at the scene. Two of the injured were airlifted to a Tampa hospital and the other two were taken by ground, officials said. Names of the victims haven't been released.

TECO spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs told the Tampa Bay Times the incident occurred in a coal-fired generating unit near a slag tank, where coal byproduct falls after it is burned. The company had been conducting routine maintenance on the tank.

The unit was shut down Thursday afternoon, though two other units continued to run.

Hot slag is a molten byproduct created when coal is burned for electricity. Chunks of it fall into cooling tanks and the remnants, which are black and glasslike, are recycled and used in sand blasting and roofing.

Twenty years ago almost to the day, four TECO workers were seriously injured during routine maintenance of a slag tank at a plant in Port Sutton.

Smoke from its towering stacks can be seen from around Tampa Bay. The plant primarily burns coal. However, it has in recent years added natural gas- and oil-fired capabilities.

The plant also is a popular tourism destination for its manatee viewing center.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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