WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie visited the VA hospital in West Haven Tuesday. The visit comes less than one week after two people were killed in a steam pipe explosion inside a building on the VA campus.
Massive improvements are coming to this complex. That is the promise from the VA secretary after warnings that aging infrastructure may have played a part in Friday’s tragedy.
Two people died Friday morning. One was an outside contractor, the other was a Navy veteran and hospital employee named Eule Sims. The two were trying to fix a steam leak when something went wrong.
Connecticut’s US Senators both called for upgrades and improvements to the facility within hours of that accident. Tuesday morning, VA Secretary Wilkie toured the damaged building with hospital administrators, and he said help is on the way.
“There are massive improvements coming to West Haven and it is something that I have been pushing in the time that I’ve been here for us to more efficiently and compassionately serve our veterans,” said Secretary Wilkie.
Specifically, a new three-story tower is in the works. That funding had already been approved before this happened.
The Secretary also praised the hospital worker who died. Eule Sims spent 27 years in the Navy Seabees. That is the engineering and building part of the Navy. When he left the service, he still wanted to serve and that is what brought him there to work at the hospital. He brought his technical experience to help fellow veterans at the VA.
“Our hearts go out to the families,” Secretary Wilkie said.
Many who work at the VA now seeking comfort through the VA’s employee help program and the campus chaplain.
Sims is survived by his wife, two sons, and four grandchildren.
They are still not officially releasing the name of the contractor who was killed. He worked for Mulvaney Mechanical. The company telling News 8 they have no comment at this time. And when we asked officials for the latest on what happened Friday, the answer was simply that the accident is still under investigation.
Rising above the police tape at the scene of the explosion – a wooden cross marked with the simple epitaph: ‘Rest In Peace’.