The entrance to a maintenance facility after an apparent steam explosion in a maintenance building at a Veterans Affairs hospital in West Haven, Conn., on Friday.

The entrance to a maintenance facility after an apparent steam explosion in a maintenance building at a Veterans Affairs hospital in West Haven, Conn., on Friday. Robert Bumsted / AP

Federal Manager, Contractor Dead Following Explosion at VA Facility

Another contractor is missing, and three individuals are injured.

An explosion Friday at a Veterans Affairs Department facility in Connecticut left one federal manager and a contractor dead, with another contractor missing, according to officials briefed on the situation. 

The West Haven VA Medical Center experienced a steam pipe explosion, officials said, which has left three additional people injured. The VA employee was a Navy veteran, said Alfred Montoya, the medical center’s director, on Friday. 

“This is the reason he came in,” Montoya said, according to The Hartford Courant. “As a veteran, he wanted to take care of fellow veterans, he wanted to give back to those men and women who fought so hard. It’s moments like that that really tear at your heart and tear at your soul.”

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the explosion did not affect patient care and the hospital remained open for care, as the blast took place at nearby buildings. Montoya explained the two victims had been conducting routine maintenance on the steam pipe Friday morning but when they refilled the pipe, it exploded and killed them both. The contractor was employed by Mulvaney Mechanical, according to the Courant

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, promised to further investigate the matter. His counterpart, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said he would work with congressional appropriators to make sure the decades-old West Haven facility would be updated. 

Everett Kelley, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents most VA employees, thanked first responders and those investigating the incident. 

“We are saddened to hear the news of the tragedy at the West Haven VA this morning,” Kelley said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the two workers who were killed as a result of this tragic event.”

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