LEMOORE, California. (KGPE) – An investigation is underway in Lemoore after a city water tank exploded, killing a contractor and injuring a city employee.
It happened just before 1:30 p.m. on Monday at the city’s water tank on Bush Street, across the street from West Hills College.
“I was stunned I didn’t know what to think,” said Joe Sanchez Jr, a contractor.
Sanchez says he was working behind the water tank when he heard the explosion.
A full 1.5 million gallon water tank began splitting at the seam and lifted off the ground before launching a tsunami into the field.
“I had to jump and get off the ground and get on a truck, but as soon as the water cleared, I started looking for my boss,” recalled Sanchez.
Sanchez says he found him in the water and did CPR until first responders arrived, drudging through waist-deep water to get to him and rescue an injured city employee.
Despite life-saving efforts, Sanchez’s boss did not survive.
Sanchez says his boss was from San Diego and brought his teenage son to work that day.
“He is a good guy, he is a family man, and its tragic he isn’t going home to his family today,” explained Sanchez.
Lemoore City Manager Nathan Olson says the contractor was about to start welding on the tank when there was a mechanical failure.
A total of 3 million gallons of water was stored in both tanks, but the site is now out of operation.
With damage to the electrical and water treatment systems, for now, the city is running on limited resources.
“City of Lemoore residents, you may see a drop of water pressure this evening, and as we bring a couple of wells online we typically don’t run as often, except for backups or emergencies, you will see a little browning in the color of the water potentially but the water is safe to drink,” Olson explained.
“My brother nearly got killed out here today,” said Esquiel Sanchez.
Sanchez met his brother back at the site, to offer first responders a prayer and cool drink on this hot day.
“We don’t know when our last day will be, so embrace your loved ones tonight extra hard,” Sanchez said.
Cal/OSHA is now investigating as the city works to assess the damage and make sure people have safe drinking water until this site is fixed.