Gatesville hospital marks anniversary of deadly blast

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GATESVILLE, Texas Nearly 100 hospital employees and members of the public gathered Wednesday on the front lawn of the Coryell Memorial Hospital in Gatesville to mark a year since the tragic explosion that claimed the lives of three men and injured 13 others.

Staff and community members gather outside Coryell Memorial Hospital Wednesday to remember the explosion that claimed the lives of three people and injured several others.

On June 16, 2018, shortly after 2:15 p.m., an explosion rocked a central utilities plant that was under construction at the hospital.

The explosion caused massive damage to the building at the rear of the Coryell Memorial Healthcare System.

“It’s been a tough year,” hospital administrator David Byrom said, “It’s been a defining moment for the organization.

"I don’t think the definition of the explosion is it. It’s the actions of the community and the staff following that explosion that were defining moments in our organization,” said Byrom.

Coryell Memorial Health System EMS Director Jeffrey Mincy said they still feel the impact a year later.

“It’s been a trying year, for many of us, my EMTs and paramedics that were there struggled with it and I struggle with it,” he said. “It still was a positive moment with how our people reacted and how the community came together.”

Michael Bruggman of Rogers, died in the blast.

Bruggman, 43, was a Temple native who graduated in 1992 from Academy High School and went on to attend Sam Houston State University.

Filiberto Morales, 36, of Round Rock, died two days later at Scott & White Medical Center in Temple.

Wilber Dimas died on July 15 at Dell Seton Medical Center in Austin.

Survivors were hospitalized at Scott & White Medical Center, as well as, at San Antonio Military Medical Center, at Dell Seton Medical Center in Austin, and at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.

Aaron Haveron, the pastor of a United Pentecostal Church in Marlin, was critically injured in the blast and was taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.

Father and son, Vernon Barabas of Waco and Justin Barabas, 23, of China Spring; and Matt Aaron of Oglesby, were also among the injured.

No patients inside the hospital, at 1507 West Main Street, at the time of the explosion were hurt.

The Oaks at Coryell and the Meadows near the Gatesville hospital, both of which are nursing facilities, were also evacuated and residents were moved to other facilities following the explosion.

Patients from the Memory Care Unit, Long-Term Care, Assisted Living Center and Independent Living Apartments were also evacuated to Westview Manor in McGregor, Hillside Medical Lodge and Sunset Lutheran Ministries.

Construction on the hospital resumed in April after disputes with a former contractor were resolved.

The explosion resulted from a large pocket of natural gas that had flowed from disconnected gas lines into the building, according to a State Fire Marshal’s Office report that was released in November.

That report also stated the investigation is now closed.

“Although the specific ignition source was not identified during the investigation, there was no evidence to suggest this was the result of an intentional act or of natural causes. Evidence tended to suggest this was a construction accident," the report concludes.

The natural gas that accumulated in the physical’s plant boiler room and larger mechanical room exploded.

The report says it appears a gas-air mixture ignited in the boiler room and the resulting fire “propagated to the mechanical room where a larger pocket of fuel gas was located.”

Ground was originally broken in November 2016 for the major renovation and expansion project at the hospital.

The 117,000-square foot project was to include new operating rooms, a new 25-bed hospital wing, administration offices, a 16-bed rehabilitation facility and the new central plant that houses chillers and boilers.