Blast Victim's Story of Survival

Paul Gaskins was inside the Kleen Energy Plant in Middletown Sunday morning during the devastating explosion, and says he and others voiced concerns in the hour before it happened.

Gaskins, a turbine specialist from Holly Ridge, NC, says he was thrown 50 to 75 feet through the air by the blast, and he was just 50 feet away from the men who died.

"I was just very blessed that I didn't go with them. Very good men," said Gaskins, who sought treatment for his injuries at Middlesex Hospital and is now recovering at a local hotel.

Five people died in the explosion. More than two dozen others were injured. Gaskins had just re-entered the building after checking something outside.

"I never heard a noise. I just saw large items start moving, and myself, they blew me right out the north side of the building," he said.

He says he saw people, pipes, and equipment all flying by. He landed on asphalt and pipes, saw a huge fireball, and was then hit in the head by a piece of siding during a secondary explosion.

"To me, it didn't seem like the inside of the building went. It's like it went through the building," he said.

Gaskins has no broken bones, but did suffer a concussion, and has severe back pain and a badly bruised leg.

At about 10:30 Sunday morning, he says he and other workers smelled a lot of gas in the building and expressed concerns about whether heaters and lights should be shut off. Safety managers were monitoring gas levels in the building, he said.

"They said the meters were good but to open the doors further on the north side to let more air through the building and that will help," said Gaskins.

As the investigation into what went wrong goes on, Gaskins and so many others are left with questions and grief.

"My heart goes out to the people that have lost their fathers and sons and I hope that God will help them through this," said Gaskins.

"You couldn't ask for a better group of men to work with and they were always concerned about safety," he said. "All these guys were. Maybe it was fate or it could have been a terrible procedure gone wrong."

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