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VA Secretary comes to West Haven campus to honor employee killed in explosion

Secretary Robert Wilkie spent much of his media briefing Tuesday talking about the West Haven VA employee, who tragically lost his life Friday.

Several days after a fatal explosion, during steam pipe maintenance on the West Haven VA campus, the Secretary of the Department of Veteran's Affairs visited the campus. 

Secretary Robert Wilkie spent much of his media briefing Tuesday talking about the West Haven VA employee, who tragically lost his life Friday.

Euel Sims, Jr., 60, was described as a perfect example of someone who subscribed to service before self.

"When he left the Navy, his desire was to continue to serve those who have served, and he did that honorably," said Secretary Wilkie. 

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

It has understandably been a very rough few days for those employed by the West Haven VA.

"I myself have sat and talked to the chaplain and the employee assistance coordinator on multiple occasions and I think that’s how we move forward," said Al Montoya, Director of the West Haven VA.

Wilkie emphasized that no patients were in danger as a result of the explosion and services were never interrupted. But he acknowledged the aging infrastructure that dates back to the 1950’s.

"There are massive improvements coming to West Haven," Wilkie said. 

"We are working on that design right now the initial designs for the new tower right essentially a three-story tower," said Montoya. 

The project cost is estimated to be $365 million, which is money that Congress still must approve.

"It is something that I have been pushing in the time that I’ve been here for us to more efficiently and compassionately serve our veterans," Wilkie added. 

The West Haven VA Director said construction of a new tower would likely take two to three years.