Officials: 2 dead, 3 injured in steam explosion at VA Hospital campus in West Haven

A steam explosion at the Veterans Affairs Hospital campus in West Haven killed two people and injured three others Friday morning, according to officials.

News 12 Staff

Nov 13, 2020, 11:16 PM

Updated 1,310 days ago

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A steam explosion at the Veterans Affairs Hospital campus in West Haven killed two people and injured three others Friday morning, according to officials.
The explosion happened at the maintenance facility on campus -- a separate building from the hospital, which is located on Campbell Avenue. A VA employee and a contractor were killed while doing work to some mechanical equipment. The contractor worked with Mulvaney Mechanical, based in Danbury.
Al Montoya, the medical center director for VA Connecticut Healthcare System, says the explosion happened while work was being done to replace a steam line.
"This is one of the hardest moments of my VA career," says Montoya.
That's how Montoya described what it was like to tell the loved ones of the VA employee who was killed. Montoya says the VA employee served in the Navy.
Montoya says, "But I will tell you what she said back to me is that this is the reason that he came in. As a veteran he wanted to take care of fellow veterans. He wanted to give back to those men and women who fought so hard. and it's moments like that that really tear at your heart and tear at your soul."
Amid the tragedy, Montoya says services at the VA Hospital were not affected and patients are still being cared for.
Ryan Lilly, the network director for the VA New England Healthcare System, says "This campus is part of a broader regional health care system and we often refer to ourselves as family, and it's really hard when you lose someone in your family."
Sen. Richard Blumenthal says this is a profoundly sad and tragic day for everyone in Connecticut and around the country who care about veterans.
"Our veterans do more than serve our country," says Blumenthal.
Blumenthal, who is a member of the Veteran's Affairs Committee, spoke about how crucial it's for Congress to provide funds for the aging VA buildings across the country. He says the West Haven facility, which was on the list to be upgraded, was built sometime in the 1950s and is extremely antiquated. Blumenthal vowed to redouble his efforts so that construction on facilities in Connecticut and all over happens soon.
Gov. Ned Lamont says for staff at the VA hospital what happened is like losing a family member. He added that this is such a tragedy in the middle of a pandemic, which is an already trying time.
"We appreciate all the nurses and doctors. We appreciate all of your effort," says Lamont. "This is an amazing state, and we stand up to tragedy."
Lamont says what happened is a reminder that our veterans do more than just serve in uniform, they come back and they serve in our communities and they give of themselves and sometimes they give their lives.
Sen. James Maroney also offered his condolences and deep gratitude for all first responders at the scene.
The identities of the victims have not yet been released. The three people who were injured were also VA employees.
State police say they are working with the ATF and West Haven police on the investigation into what happened.


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