Injured spectators at PG&E implosion were in 'safety zone'

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - People injured during a planned Pacific Gas and Electric Co. power plant implosion in northwest Bakersfield on Saturday were standing in an "established safety zone," according to PG&E, Kern County and Bakersfield city officials.

Five people were injured, one critically, moments after the implosion began, when shrapnel flew from the site past the designated safety area, according to the Kern County Fire Department.

A man, whose name has not been released, was critically injured when a piece of metal severed part of his leg. He was transported to a Fresno-area hospital, where he remains in critical condition.

"We had been working for months with the construction, PG&E and the demo crews, establishing what our safety areas were going to be," said KCFD spokesman Leland Davis. "Minimum distances away from the explosion, asbestos removal ... all the procedures."

PG&E spokesman Denny Boyles also said the company took precautionary measures for overall safety, but not necessarily the safety of spectators.

"Working with the demolition specialist, we had established a one thousand-foot safety perimeter," Boyles said. "We made no provision for spectators ... We wanted to make sure that everyone was outside of the safety perimeter that was established by the demolition contractor, and that was really all we could do."

Fred Garten, who standing beyond the safety line, was injured when a piece of metal hit his leg.

"It was definitely a bit of chaos," Garten said. "The piece of iron that hit me was about two inches thick and four inches wide and about six inches long, so luckily I caught the side of it that was smooth."

Garten also said the metal came to close to hitting his children.

"I think the impact of the idea that my boys were with me and I had one sitting to the right of where my knee was and the two to the left ... The idea that one way or the other it could've taken those guys out, that would've just been horrific," he said.

The entire incident is currently under investigation by various agencies.