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Power Plant Collapse: Rescue crews ''close'' to finding trapped man Clark White

11:47 PM, Jun 12, 2011   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida  -- After three days of searching through the twisted metal and pulverized brick, search and rescue crews are hopeful they will soon be able to recover the body of 65-year-old Clark White.

White, a contractor with Frontier Industries has not been seen since Thursday night when a decades-old Progress Energy power plant on Weedon Island crumbled to the ground one hour before its scheduled demolition.

Photos: Worker trapped in collapse at Progress Energy Power Plant

It was hoped they'd be able to find White alive in one of the voids beneath the rubble, but hope faded by Saturday night when the rescue mission transitioned into a recovery mission.

"Everybody is committed to finding Mr. White," said Progress Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks.

It is believed crews are digging in the right area.  

"Rescue and recovery crews do believe they are close," said Brooks.

Brooks says White was doing a welding job on the first floor of boiler 3 when something went wrong in the structure.  He was the only one who was unable to escape the collapse of the 7 story structure.

Now, the same men he worked alongside with on the demo project are the same men who are working tirelessly to find the father and grandfather.

"The family has been here every day.  They've been on-site at the recovery location that's very close to the operation so they can receive regular updates," said Brooks.

The demo crews were working to weaken some of the support beams so the structure could be pulled down at 8:30pm, but for some reason, it came down suddenly at 7:20 p.m. Thursday.

Brooks says Progress Energy will re-evaluate the remainder of the demolition project, which was scheduled for completion in 2012.

"We are going to take a very hard look at the project and what happens next, but right now our focus is on the recovery operation," he explained.

The Search and Rescue Task Force, made up of five area fire departments, has literally worked with the Frontier workers to move the rubble pile piece by piece.

"When the building collapsed, it left a field of steel, brick and pulverized material that is very small and packed into those areas, so it's very dirty, very dusty there," explained Brooks.  "As you can imagine, a lot of the work has to be conducted by hand  because the heavy machinery simply can't maneuver it."

The recovery mission wrapped up for the day Sunday at 6 p.m.  Crews will be back at work at 8 a.m. Monday morning.

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Laura Kadechka

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