Demolition experts on PG&E implosion: 'They did it from the absolute opposite that we would'

Demolition experts on PG&E implosion: 'They did it from the absolute opposite that we would'

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Some experts told Eyewitness News that the 1,000-foot perimeter safety zone for Saturday's detonation of the old Pacific Gas and Electric Co. power plant was not large enough, resulting in multiple injuries to spectators.

The implosion of the plant shot steel and concrete into a crowd of spectators in the Lowe's parking lot across Coffee Road. They were just over 1,000 feet away, or in an area the project's contractors said would be safe. 

John Powell is the CEO of Bakersfield-based company Sturgeon Services International. He said Monday that the old PG&E power plant was not properly demolished.

"There are not supposed to be any flying shrapnel to the degree that they encountered. So there was some miscalculation somewhere on the explosion or implosion design," said Powell.

Chris Rodman is the operations manager at Sturgeon Services International. He said the demolition contractors involved are at fault for the injuries that the implosion caused because spectators were too close to the blast.

"I don't know if it was just poor engineering. If the explosives weren't properly applied or what, but I think there is always a calculation that there is gonna be some flying debris, and controlling that is part of the responsibility of the people involved," said Rodman.

Five people were hurt. The most seriously injured spectator Saturday was flown to a Fresno hospital. There are reports he lost part of one leg, and the second is severely injured.

The president of the demolition company, Duane Corp., said there is no industry standard for a safety zone, but because the plant was made of steel he also believes the 1,000 foot parameter had spectators too close to the blast.

"Steel buildings, you have projectiles that will go a lot farther than concrete does. So you should have at least 1,500 to 2,000," said Herb Duane.

Sturgeon Services officials said the responsibility for the injuries should fall on the contractors managing the implosion.

Alpha Explosives was the subcontractor in charge of the detonation on Saturday. They are now under investigation by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.