ESCATAWPA, MS (WLOX) - Jackson County and Biloxi firefighters rushed to the back of Mississippi Power's Plant Daniel in Jackson County Tuesday morning. Inside one of four boiler units, a dramatic rescue was unfolding.
"The scaffolding has fallen," said Kim Flowers, a Mississippi Power executive. "So what's going on inside today is a very extensive rescue effort to rescue the employees that were inside building the scaffold when it fell."
The contract crew worked for LandCoast Insulation of New Iberia, Louisiana. The workers were building the scaffold inside a steel boiler unit around 6 AM, when the platform came crashing down. All seven workers plunged to the bottom of the boiler. They were buried under piles of metal and wooden planks.
"Inside a boiler house, it's a very tight, narrow space that they were working in," said Mississippi Power Spokeswoman Cindy Duvall. "It's pretty high up. About 226 feet high is how high a boiler house will go. At the time, they were at 170 feet."
The boiler, where coal is burned, was shut down at the time. Five of the men were quickly pulled to safety. Rescuers found the sixth man three hours later. Then, at 1:00 o'clock, firefighters spotted the final trapped worker.
"The seventh man is under a tremendous amount of that debris. We have laid eyes on him so we know where he is," said Flowers. "The rescue team is cutting a hole inside the boiler right above the debris, so they have direct access straight in."
When rescuers finally dug through the wreckage and reached the victim, the news was grim. He did not survive.
"It's quite unusual for a scaffold to fall like this," said Joe Rider, a spokesman for LandCoast. "We don't know. We haven't begun an investigation, but we will. And I think we'll find out what caused it. But it's going to be a couple of days probably."