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U.S. Navy veteran among 2 killed in West Haven VA medical center explosion, 3 others injured

According to officials, the explosion occurred at approximately 8 a.m., when a steam line was being replaced.
Credit: FOX61

WEST HAVEN, Conn. — State and local officials are investigating after two people were killed in a steam explosion at the West Haven VA Medical Center. 

According to West Haven VA officials, the explosion occurred at approximately 8 a.m., when a 'leaky' steam pipe was being replaced at an outer building.

A VA employee and a contractor were the two killed.

The employee, also a U.S. Navy veteran, was identified as 60-year-old Euel Sims.

Officials identified the second victim, a contractor as 36-year-old Joseph O’Donnell.

Three other individuals suffered minor injuries. It is believed they were VA employees. They were treated on scene at the medical center.

Officials also reported that to their knowledge, everyone at the site has been accounted for.

State Police said their Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit has been called in shortly before 9 a.m. to help investigate with the local fire marshal.

State Police and the FBI will be working in conjunction with West Haven Police, who will provide all further updates. 

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie said in a statement:

“We received a report this morning that an explosion occurred at the West Haven campus of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System that resulted in two deaths in a non-patient care area. Neither of the victims were VA patients and patient care was not affected. Emergency personnel are on the scene. Our prayers are with the families of the victims of this explosion. More information will be provided as it becomes confirmed and available.” 

Commissioner Thomas J. Saadi of CT Department of Veterans Affairs said in a statement:

 "The Leadership and Staff of the Connecticut  Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) are deeply saddened by the tragic accident at the Federal VA in West Haven and extend our condolences and prayers to the families of the victims and to our Federal colleagues who continue to care for Connecticut's Veterans."

Mulvaney Mechancical, Inc., the employer of the victims, released a statement: 

We have been advised of a significant event at the West Haven VA Hospital involving our personnel. We are cooperating in all matters of investigating what has transpired. At this junction, we have been approved of the death of one of our team members. 

We will issue additional information as it becomes available. 

Governor Ned Lamont issued a statement regarding the fatal explosion:

“State emergency management officials are actively working with local and federal officials to respond to the explosion that occurred this morning at the West Haven VA Medical Center and will continue to provide as much aid as necessary to conduct an investigation. Early indications are that this appears to have been caused by a steam pipe.

“At this time we can confirm that there have been two deaths, and our hearts go out to their families and colleagues at the VA center. This is a heartbreaking tragedy, and I have instructed our state agencies to provide full resources as the response and investigation continues.”

Congressional leaders have tweeted their sympathies to the victims and their families and prayers for first responders. 

In a statement, Senator Richard Blumenthal said:

“It is sad day in America, as we continue to learn more about the incident at the West Haven VA this morning. Our hearts go out to the families of those individuals who have been impacted. As a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I’ve been in contact with the director of the facility and will continue to remain in touch as more information becomes available. There must be a full and complete investigation as to what was the cause for this fatal, tragic explosion - our veterans deserve the best care, and the safest and most reliable work, always.”