Bakersfield Implosion: Crowd Cheers Not Knowing Man Lost Leg

In the demolition business, buildings are usually brought down by a process known as implosion, as distinct from explosion. The Bakersfield implosion, designed to bring the old power plant tumbling down, went horribly wrong. A spectator was hit by flying debris and lost part of his leg as a result.

By 6 a.m. on Saturday, several thousand people had assembled to watch the planned implosion of the steam power plant belonging to Pacific Gas and Electric. The demolition contractors had set up a perimeter fence 1,000 feet away, which they calculated would protect the spectators from danger.

Explosive charges were placed at critical points inside the building, to be detonated in a carefully planned sequence. In the few second before the building collapsed a police patrolman heard the sound of a man screaming.

Shards of metal had flown out of the building as it was falling, and struck a 43-year-old man, severing part of one leg. Bakersfield Police Lt. Scott Tunnicliffe said that a second spectator was also seriously injured. At least two other people suffered minor injuries, and some parked cars were also damaged.

The seriously injured man was eventually flown by helicopter to Fresno for further treatment; his condition was not known. One piece of metal was recovered; it was about half a foot long and weighed a few pounds.

Denny Boyles, a spokesman for the company said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with this man and the others who received injuries….as a company we are deeply saddened.” He added that he did not know how the 1,000-foot safety perimeter had been determined.

Pacific Gas hired Cleveland Wrecking Co. to handle the demolition. They made a statement saying:: “This was a terrible accident, and our hearts go out to the individuals who were injured. We will be conducting a full investigation and will cooperate with the authorities. It would not be appropriate for us comment further at this stage.”

Boyles said the power company was working with the demolition contractors to establish the cause of the accident; the police were not planning to investigate the Bakersfield implosion as a crime.