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Updated: Diver dies at Batten Kill hydropower plant

Updated: Diver dies at Batten Kill hydropower plant

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GREENWICH — State Police are investigating a fatal accident that occurred Friday morning at a hydropower plant on the Batten Kill that claimed the life of a commercial diver.

The incident was reported at the former Dahowa Hydro power plant off county Route 53, near the hamlet of Middle Falls. The diver, Steven F. Wingard, 25, of Falls Village, Connecticut, died while underwater in a pool below the hydro plant.

State Police said Wingard was working for a company identified as Commercial Diver Systems to clean an underwater drain valve at the hydro plant when some sort of accident occurred. How he came to be injured was still under investigation Friday afternoon, State Police Senior Investigator Robert Stampfli said.

Stampfli said Wingard was the only diver in the water, and was connected to a crew on land via an “umbilical” cord with an oxygen line.

“There was some sort of event that caused them to pull him back up” and he was unconscious, Stampfli said.

Exactly what occurred remained under investigation later Friday, Stampfli said. But there was no indication of foul play.

The accident was reported just after 9:30 a.m. Easton-Greenwich Rescue Squad members and Middle Falls firefighters responded, but efforts to revive the man with CPR were unsuccessful.

Dahowa Hydro sold the 10.5-megawatt plant to Gravity Renewables earlier this year, according to an article on Renewable Energy World’s website.

Numerous streams and rivers in the region were running very high Friday after Thursday’s rain, and the Batten Kill was running at nearly triple its median flow for June 21 as of Friday morning. Stampfli said it was unclear whether the drain issue was related to the rain or was regularly scheduled maintenance.

Julie Smith-Galvin, a spokeswoman for Gravity Renewables, said the company was trying to figure out what occurred as well.

“Our thoughts are with Mr. Wingard’s family, friends and loved ones,” she said in an email. “We appreciate the work of all those involved in responding to this morning’s emergency call. We are working closely and cooperatively with local authorities to investigate what caused today’s tragedy.”


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