HOUSTON — Five CenterPoint Energy workers were seriously injured Thursday after being shocked while working at a building in downtown Houston, according to the Houston Fire Department.
It happened at the Southwestern Bell building in the 1100 block of Capitol at San Jacinto around 10 a.m.
A crew was working on an outside electrical vault when it caught on fire and shocked them.
"The vault is located just outside, although it is not connected, it has a strong protective barrier around it," said HFD spokesman Capt. Ruy Lozano. "But the workers were inside when it flashed, that’s why they sustained the majority of the injuries."
Lozano said the workers were hit with at least 480 volts of electricity. HFD crews had to go down into the vault to rescue them.
Paramedics then transported the workers to Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center with significant electrical burn injuries. One was in critical condition, two in serious and two in fair, according to the hospital.
The explosion was heard from blocks away.
"I heard some noise. We were coming here to do a job," said Roberto Reyes, a witness. "I saw flames… It was pretty high."
Reyes saw some of the victims.
"Saw some guy who was coming up from the other hole, he just rolled to the ground and stopped moving, facing up," Reyes said. "The other guy, he was bad, pretty much caught in flames. His shirt was on fire."
Employees inside the building said they were sitting at their desks working when, all of a sudden, the power went out. They were evacuated as a precaution.
San Jacinto, Capitol and Texas streets were temporarily closed after the accident.
A special machine is being brought in from Madisonville to help investigators determine the cause of the accident.