A suspected steam pipe explosion in a maintenance area of a Connecticut VA hospital killed a VA employee and a contractor, and left a third person missing on Friday, officials said.
The explosion occurred at the West Haven campus of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System that resulted in two deaths in a non-patient care area. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement that patient care was not impacted by the explosion.
"Neither of the victims were VA patients and patient care was not affected. Emergency personnel are on the scene," the statement said. "Our prayers are with the families of the victims of this explosion."
Ralph Bozella, chairman of The American Legion’s National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission, offered his condolences and urged a full investigation into the explosion.
“We offer our sincerest condolences to those impacted by today’s tragic events,” he said. “The American Legion works closely with the Veterans Health Administration and we urge VA and Congress to thoroughly investigate the cause of the explosion.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said the explosion may have been the result of a mechanical failure or human error by someone at the VA.
“We have no firm facts as yet," he said. “I will be taking a personal interest in the investigation and there may well be an investigation by our committee depending on how well we’re satisfied that the VA itself is investigating properly.”
“This is a heartbreaking tragedy,” said Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont. “I have instructed our state agencies to provide full resources as the response and investigation continues.”