Two workers pronounced dead after being trapped in a coal pile at Pueblo power station

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Coal transported from a BNSF freight train piles up at the Comanche 3 Power Generating Station operated by Xcel Energy, southeast of Pueblo on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.

Update 5:16 p.m.

The two workers trapped in a coal pile at the Comanche Generating Station in Pueblo did not survive, according to the Pueblo Fire Department.

Rescue crews located the victims around 3 p.m. Both victims were pronounced dead at the scene and rescue efforts were converted to recovery efforts.

Pueblo Fire Inspector and Public Information Officer Erik Duran said the victims’ families are in the process of being notified but their names have not been released.

"At approximately 3:00 p.m. this afternoon rescuers made contact with the first victim through excavating within the coal pile in which they were trapped," Duran said. "Shortly thereafter, they made contact with the second victim. EMS emergency services responders on site determined that they were dead on scene."

All operations have pulled out of the area.

The two workers, sub-contractors from Savage Services, were on the 80-foot pile when it collapsed early Thursday morning. It is unknown what the workers were doing at the time of the incident. Savage Services manages the coal-handling operations for the Comanche Generating Station.   

A representative for Savage Services did not immediately respond to a request for updated information.

This is a developing story.

Erik Duran with the Pueblo Fire Department said crews were called to the site around 8:30 a.m. this morning.

The workers are employed by Savage Services, according to company spokesperson Jeff Hymas. Savage manages the coal-handling operation at the plant, which is operated by Xcel Energy.

The coal pile is approximately 80 feet tall; it’s unclear how much it weighs. Representatives for Xcel Energy did not immediately return requests for more information.

Fire crews arrived 10 minutes after the call, according to Duran. Workers used shovels to try to reach the victims, but emergency workers are now using excavation equipment for the rescue operation.

"The dangers of this particular type of operation is the fact that there is a lot of material uphill that continues to fill into some of the excavated areas without proper bracing," Duran said of the rescue attempt earlier today.

Other Xcel Energy employees assisted with the rescue effort, Duran said. Emergency medical workers and helicopters were also on the scene. Duran said there has been no communication between the trapped individuals and the rescue teams.

CPR's Anthony Gorman contributed to this report.

More about Xcel Energy

With 3 million gas and electric customers, Xcel Energy is the largest public utility in Colorado. It also runs the biggest coal-fired power plant and is one of the largest greenhouse gas sources.

  • Great Power, Great Profits: Almost $10 billion in proposed infrastructure projects could mean big returns for the company.