Collapse sends man to hospital

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A portion of a cooling tower at the Craig Station Power Plant collapsed Friday, sending one subcontractor to the hospital and cutting the plant's power-generating capacities by 30 percent.

The contractor, an employee of International Cooling Towers, was working on one of the three cooling towers at the 25-year-old plant south of Craig when the accident occurred.

The cause of the collapse was unknown late Friday.

At about 5 p.m., part of the cooling tower collapsed, said Jim Van Someren, a spokesman for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, which operates the plant.

A cooling tower has never collapsed before, Van Someren said.

The contractor, whose name was not released Friday, was taken to The Memorial Hosp--ital in Craig with unknown injuries, Van Someren said. The man's injuries were not life threatening, he said.

When Craig Fire/Rescue crews were called to the scene, the original dispatch said two workers were trapped by the collapse, Fire Chief Chris Nichols said.

When crews got to the scene, another emergency dispatch reported that no one was trapped, Nichols said.

Van Someren said the contractor was part of a crew making basic repairs on the tower when part of the structure collapsed.

The cooling tower went into use in 1980 and Tri-State started the repair project last fall, Van Someren said.

The towers cool water from the plant's boilers so water can be reused.

The plant has three power-generating units. Tri-State and four other regional power providers own units 1 and 2. Tri-State is the sole leaseholder of Unit 3.

Craig Station is Colorado's largest coal-fired power plant, constantly producing more than 1,200 mega-watts. Customers in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and New Mexico purchase power from Craig Station.

The collapse knocked out Unit 1, cutting electricity production by more than 400 mega-watts.

Unit 1 will be out for several days, Van Someren said.

Power providers have contingency plans, and no customers will lose power as a result of the accident, he said.

Crews left the scene at about 7 p.m. Friday and will return early today, Van Someren said.

Craig Daily Press reporters Christina M. Currie and Michelle Perry contributed to this story.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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