By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
COEYMANS — The worker injured in an explosion and fire at the Coeymans marina underwent his first surgery Thursday, Town Supervisor George McHugh said.
Eric Allen was injured in a blast at Coeymans Landing Marina Services on Jan. 20.
McHugh said at Thursday’s meeting of the town council he had spoken with Allen’s father and that surgery was performed that day.
“[He] told me that Eric had not been able to go into surgery until today because they were trying to stabilize his lungs — there was some damage to his lungs and they felt he was stable enough to have a short surgery today,” McHugh said.
Allen sustained severe burns in the fire but is battling his injuries, McHugh said.
“He’s a tough guy, he is a hard fighter so he is fighting it, but certainly a lot of damage was done, inside and out,” McHugh said. “Spirits are up but it’s going to be a long road.”
The community has rallied to support Allen in his recovery and the family appreciates the support of local residents, McHugh said.
“Today was a better day than yesterday,” the town supervisor said of Allen’s initial surgery. “It was a step in the right direction. Keep him in your prayers, please.”
The cause of the explosion Jan. 20 appeared to be sparks from welding that was being done near a waste oil tank, according to the preliminary investigation, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said.
Allen, 56, was airlifted by LifeNet to the University of Vermont Medical Center for treatment of his injuries.
The explosion and fire sent plumes of black smoke over the hamlet and drew mutual aid from six area fire companies, as well as the Coeymans department.
McHugh said he has also spoken with Carver Laraway, the owner of the Coeymans Industrial Park, and an official from the Coeymans fire district to see how businesses in the industrial park can help in providing firefighting support in the future.
“We talked a little bit about volunteer firefighting and EMS recruitment,” McHugh said. “The industrial park, including Mr. Laraway and some of the tenants there, want to do what they can to assist the local fire companies in making sure that they’ve got enough people to fight fires during the day.”
The effort was spurred by the marina fire, McHugh said.
While talks are still preliminary, McHugh said businesses at the industrial park are looking at ways to encourage their employees to join the fire company so firefighting expertise is close at hand in the event of a future fire.
“The tenants and Mr. Laraway are looking at incentivizing their employees by giving them paid time off to train, to go to fires and things of that nature, and try to give an incentive for them to actually want to join the local fire company so if there is a fire during the day, which is the most difficult time for them to get their volunteers to fires, [they will be there],” McHugh said.
There are hundreds of employees that could be eligible, he added.
“There are about 500 or 600 of them to get them to maybe join and help out,” McHugh said. “I thought that was a great idea. It is certainly a great concept.”
Deputy Town Supervisor Daniel Baker said a similar initiative was started at the Lafarge cement plant.
“We spoke some years ago at Lafarge,” Baker said. “They let employees go to run rescue calls. It worked very well.”
The industrial park incentives would be offered to employees willing to join EMS as well, McHugh said.
Town Councilman Brandon Lefevre said having trained firefighters and EMS workers on hand would be beneficial.
“I think it’s a great idea, especially since the industrial park is kind of windy and back out of the way,” Lefevre said. “It would help if there were employees that work there that understand the whole process and can at least secure the scene and make sure everybody is safe.”
Talks are still very preliminary, McHugh said.
“It’s a good idea and there is going to be more,” McHugh said. “This was a very initial meeting; we just outlined some broad strokes. There will be more details, but I think it is a great step in the right direction. And it’s nice to see that our local businesses want to be more intertwined with the community and be part of it.”