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2 companies fined over California power plant demolition that injured 5 spectators

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - The state has cited and issued fines to two companies that worked as subcontractors on the implosion of a central California power plant whose shrapnel flew into a crowd of more than 1,000 spectators gathered to watch the spectacle. Five people were injured, including a man whose leg was severed.

The California Department of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal-OSHA, fined Dubois, Wyo.-based Demtech Inc. $14,000 and Lincoln, Calif.-based Alpha Explosives $14,400 for the same "serious" violations in the Aug. 3 demolition of the long vacant Pacific Gas & Electric plant, The Bakersfield Californian and KBAK radio reported Monday.

The companies failed to properly evaluate the dangers of the semi-gelatin dynamite and charges used in the demolition, the strength of the structural columns where the charges were placed and the size of the blast area, according to Cal-OSHA's investigation. Alpha got a slightly larger fine for lacking a permit, KBAK reported.

An agency spokesman told the Bakersfield Californian that no action will be taken against property owner PG&E or the Covina, Calif.-based primary contractor, Cleveland Wrecking Co. The agency also said that if the two subcontractors do not appeal their fines by Feb. 15, the investigation would be closed.

The newspaper could not reach representatives from either company for comment on Monday afternoon, and after-hours phone messages left for each by The Associated Press were not immediately returned.

The crowd had gathered at 6 a.m. in the parking lot of a Lowe's Home Improvement store in Bakersfield, some sleeping in their cars overnight, to watch the planned implosion of the steam power plant that had been decommissioned for decades.

After buildings came down in a fiery crash, shrapnel sprayed into the crowd. Four people were left with minor injuries, and a 44-year-old man had his leg partly severed.

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