Xcel Energy Acquitted In Plant Deaths

GEORGETOWN, Colo. - A Denver jury has acquitted Xcel Energy Inc. of criminal charges in the deaths of five workers at a hydroelectric plant tunnel in the mountains west of Denver.

The jury Tuesday acquitted Minneapolis-based Xcel and its subsidiary, Public Service Co. of Colorado, of five counts of violating federal safety regulations, including not having a rescue plan. The verdict came after nearly three days of deliberation.

The workers were trapped in the Cabin Creek plant tunnel near Georgetown, about 40 miles west of Denver, when a flammable solvent they were using to clean an epoxy paint sprayer ignited Oct. 2, 2007.

Rescuers tried lowering air tanks to the trapped workers, but the workers were overcome by smoke and fumes.

On Tuesday evening, U.S. Attorney John Walsh sent out this statement regarding the verdict: "Today the jury has spoken, finding Xcel Energy and Public Service Company not guilty of criminal violations of certain OSHA safety regulations. We believe that this was an important case to prosecute, as it involved the loss of five lives. That said, we respect the jury's verdict. I want to recognize the hard work of the prosecutor, Jaime Pena, and the trial team from the U.S. Attorney's Office and OSHA."

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