PUEBLO, CO — Efforts to find two workers trapped under an 80-foot tall pile of coal at the Comanche Power Plant have now turned into a recovery operation.
Both workers were found separately by crews after 3:00 p.m. and were declared dead at the scene. Eric Duran of the Pueblo Fire Department says the workers were found at about a depth of 60-feet. Both victims are males in their 20's. The Pueblo County Coroner is in the process of notifying next-of-kin and identifying the cause of death.
Xcel issued a statement saying "Our hearts go out to the families of the two employees of Savage who died in the incident."
The call came in before 9:00 a.m. about the Savage Services workers caught in a landslide of coal. Members of the Pueblo Fire Department and surrounding agencies immediately moved to work the rescue with an excavator and hand tools.
Efforts to locate the victims were made more difficult due to continuously shifting coal.
A technical team from the Pueblo Fire Department was working the scene alongside Xcel Energy and Savage Service, and a helicopter was also circling the area earlier.
An investigation into how these workers became buried under the mountain of coal is underway.
Savage Services released a statement following the news of their workers' deaths which reads:
"We are devastated that the deaths of two of our Team Members have been confirmed, resulting from an incident that occurred Thursday morning at the coal yard Savage operates and maintains for Xcel Energy at its Comanche power plant. This is tragic for the families, our team, our Customer, and the Pueblo community. We are working with local and federal officials and Xcel Energy to investigate the cause of the accident. We appreciate the emergency responders who aided in rescue and recovery efforts, as well as Xcel Energy for their support. Out hearts and prayers go out to the families who are grieving the loss of their loved ones, and we are working to provide support for the families and our Team Members at the site."
In April, Pueblo County Commissioners unanimously approved an agreement with Xcel Energy to close the Comanche 3 power plant a decade early.
The plant will now close on December 31, 2031, essentially ending the use of coal-generated electricity in Colorado.
Xcel Energy has agreed to continue to make property tax payments to the county until December 31, 2040, which was the original closure date.
Commission Chair Garrison Ortiz said it avoids a major tax revenue shortfall that would have impacted the city, the library district, and local school districts.
Commissioners called it a "reasonable settlement", which also states that the tax payment to the county from Xcel could be reduced if the county establishes an energy replacement for the power plant before 2040.
The county continues to pursue alternative energy sources, including more renewable energy.
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