Tower Workers Killed in Fire Used Torches, Died of Smoke Inhalation: Officials

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Dallas Area Office says three workers were killed at Thanksgiving Tower Thursday after using a torch to clean a thermal storage tank.

Earlier Friday the Dallas County medical examiner confirmed that 36-year-old Oscar Esparza-Romo, 43-year-old Luis Carrillo and 60-year-old Nicacio Carillo, the three men inside of the tank, all died of smoke inhalation.

According to OSHA the men were using a torch to cut rusted and corroded components from one of four 30-foot deep thermal storage tanks.

The tanks are part of the heating, ventilating and air conditioning system of the building. The men were employed by Texas HVAC, a sub-contractor of Best Mechanical Inc., who was hired by Lincoln Property Co., to clean the tanks.

Dallas Fire-Rescue Lt. Joel Lavender confirmed to NBC 5 Friday that the tower's permit for welding, cutting and hot works expired in March and that the contractor doing business at the tower hasn't had a valid permit for that kind of work since December 2009.

"Although it is difficult to determine how long an investigation will take, OSHA will work diligently to determine how this incident could have occurred and what must be done to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again," OSHA said in a statement Friday. "If violations of OSHA standards are found, then OSHA can and will issue citations and those citations may accompany a monetary penalty."

Best Mechanical company spokeswoman Cheri Torres said the crew had safety equipment. A message left with the company wasn't immediately returned Friday.

While OSHA said the men were using a torch when the tank caught fire, Dallas Fire-Rescue has not released their official cause of the fire.

In addition to killing the three men, the fire injured three others and prompted the evacuation of 2,800 office workers.

Building Reopens Day After Fire Kills 3

On Friday, the building was once again open to businesses and employees were allowed to return to work inside the tower.

“It just feels different. Yesterday it was just an office, today it’s like it’s somebody’s resting place," said Missie Prayder, who works at the tower. “We’ll work, but I think it’ll be a little different. Probably a little difficult.”

Another worker, Gary Haack, expressed sorrow while curious about the cause of the fire.

“Definitely going to be more somber. Probably grim, I guess. Definitely a different attitude today. Anytime there’s a loss of life, it kind of hurts you. Whether you knew them or not,” Haack said. “I definitely want to know just exactly what happened, why, and what’s going to be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

The investigation into the fatal fire is ongoing.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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