Coal pile slide buries, kills 2 at Colorado power plant

A slide on an 80-foot-high coal pile killed two workers Thursday at a southern Colorado coal-fired electricity generating plant, authorities said after a day-long search for the victims.

Rescuers found the bodies of the two men buried beneath about 60 feet of coal in the towering pile at the Comanche Generating Station in Pueblo, said Erik Duran, spokesman for the Pueblo Fire Department.

Witnesses said the workers were standing about 30 feet up a slope of the pile when the slide occurred about 8:20 a.m. local time (10:20 a.m. ET) Duran said. Rescuers located the bodies at about 3 p.m. (5 p.m. ET) and later were able to recover them, he said.

Duran described the victims as a man in his 20s and another in his 30s. The names of the victims were withheld until relatives could be notified.

Heavy equipment is used to dig through coal to look for the bodies of two people who were buried at the Comanche Generating Station in Pueblo, Colo., on June 2, 2022. Jerilee Bennett / The Gazette via AP

Witnesses reported that the accident happened on a feeder pile for the station’s coal-fired power plant, which is Colorado’s largest and is operated by Xcel Energy.

Xcel spokeswoman Lacey Nygard said the workers are employed by Savage, a Salt Lake City-based firm contracted by Xcel to operate and maintain the coal yard at Comanche and at other Xcel coal plants.

Xcel is working with Savage and the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office to determine the cause of the accident, said Nygard, who directed questions about the coal slide to Savage.

Savage released a statement Thursday evening saying the company was “devastated” by the deaths and is working with local and federal officials, as well as Xcel, to investigate the cause of the accident.

Duran told reporters that Savage would provide additional information and that a company representative was en route to the scene.