Military

Explosion at West Haven VA Campus Kills 2, Wounds 3 Others

November 14, 2020Joshua Skovlund
Coffee or Die Photo

An apparent steam explosion erupted Friday at the Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System, West Haven Campus, killing two people and injuring three, according to Alfred A. Montoya Jr., director of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System.


“It is with great sorrow that I share that two deaths tragically occurred today, as a result of an explosion in the basement of an outer building at the West Haven campus. This occurred at approximately 8 a.m.,” Montoya said during a Friday press conference. “It was [caused by] a steam line that was being replaced. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the two victims.”


A scheduled maintenance repair of the steam pipes had been completed in the basement of one of the campus buildings, not attached to the main hospital, shortly after 8 a.m. Friday. The incident occurred after the steam was released back into the pipes following the repair.


West Haven VA
Alfred A. Montoya Jr., the director of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, during the Friday press conference. Screenshot from YouTube.

“As many of you know, this campus was built in the ’40s, ’50s, and it is a constant, uphill battle to maintain the infrastructure, and that was what was occurring today,” Montoya said. “It is my understanding that work started around 7:30, at which time it was completed a little bit after 8 when the line was refilled with steam, and that’s when the incident occurred.”


One of the two people killed by the industrial accident was a US Navy veteran and a current employee of the VA; the other was a hired contractor. The identities of the two deceased and the three injured individuals have not been released at the time of publication.


Sen. Richard Blumenthal said that the West Haven campus is one of the many VA buildings that are outdated and in dire need of replacement. Blumenthal did not clarify the cause of the accident but emphasized the age of the building and the constant demands to keep its aging infrastructure running.


“Many of our VA facilities are aging and antiquated, [and] this one is one of them. This facility dates from the 1950s. It has the structure and bones of a 1950s building with a newer shell,” Blumenthal said. “I can tell you, having visited here so many times, this tragedy is only the latest indication that this building is past its ‘sell by date.’ It’s on a list to be replaced, but it has not yet been reached. […] We’ve been through a lot with this building.”


West Haven VA
The building where the explosion occurred on the West Haven VA campus was taped off soon after the incident unfolded. Screenshot from YouTube.

Blumenthal continued by thanking the VA employees and medical personnel for their continued work despite the facility’s limitations. He said that the VA will complete a full investigation in conjunction with other local, state, and federal agencies.


Sen. Christopher Murphy followed up Blumenthal’s remarks, saying, “I think it’s important to note that we don’t know what happened. It may be that there is a connection between the age of the facility and what happened today, but we don’t know that yet. What we do know is what Sen. Blumenthal said is that this is an old campus — it should have been replaced long ago.”


Charlie Grady, an FBI spokesperson in New Haven, said that the incident has been labeled an industrial accident, not a criminal accident, and that OSHA and the VA will be investigating the incident. West Haven Fire Department Chief James P. O’Brien said during the press conference that the Connecticut Office of the State Fire Marshal, the West Haven Fire Marshal’s Office, and the Connecticut Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit will be working to determine the origin and cause of the explosion in conjunction with the ATF, as well as working with local, state, and federal partners on the overall investigation. The West Haven Police Department will be leading the investigation into the “untimely deaths” that happened as a result of the explosion.



Joshua Skovlund
Joshua Skovlund

Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
dear jack mandaville
Dear Jack: Which Historic Battle Would You Want To Witness?

Ever wonder how much Jack Mandaville would f*ck sh*t up if he went back in time? The American Revolution didn't even see him coming.

west point time capsule
West Point Time Capsule Yields Centuries-Old Coins

A nearly 200-year-old West Point time capsule that at first appeared to yield little more than dust contains hidden treasure, the US Military Academy said.

Ouija Board aircraft carrier
Low-Tech ‘Ouija Boards’ Have Helped Aircraft Carriers Operate for Decades

Since the 1920s, a low-tech tabletop replica of an aircraft carrier’s flight deck has been an essential tool in coordinating air operations.

Army vs. Navy mascot
The Navy Goat vs. the Army Mule: Mascot Origin Stories

For nearly as long as the Army-Navy football rivalry, the academies’ hoofed mascots have stared each other down from the sidelines. Here are their stories.

ukraine long-range weapon
Zelenskyy Says Ukraine Has Developed a Long-Range Weapon, a Day After Strike Deep Inside Russia

Zelenskyy said on his Telegram channel the weapon was produced by Ukraine’s Ministry of Strategic Industries but gave no other details.

ambush
7 of the Best Movie Ambush Scenes of All Time

Ambushes make for great action scenes. Here are seven of the best to ever grace the big screen.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, with his daughter, center right, reportedly named Ju Ae, review the honor guard during their visit to the navy headquarter in North Korea
North Korea Launches Missile Toward Sea After US Flies Bomber During Drills

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the launch occurred Wednesday but gave no further details, such as how far the missile flew.

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
Contact Us
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved