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Indiana Man Suffers Third-Degree Burns In Steel Mill Accident

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BURNS HARBOR, Ind. (CBS) — A Portage, Ind., man has been placed into an inducted coma after an industrial accident at the steel mill where he worked left him with third-degree burns over 55 percent of his body.

The accident happened Saturday evening at the ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor plant, when a high-pressure steam hose ruptured at the No. 1 basic oxygen furnace, an ArcelorMittal spokesman said in an email statement Monday.

Gabe Rocha, a salaried foreman who transferred from the Inland Steel plant to Burns Harbor about six months ago, was checking pressure lines that are part of the cooling system when the hose ruptured, according to Paul Gipson, president of United Steelworkers Local 6787.

At the time of the accident, workers were investigating an alert that a steam pressure line had blown, Gipson said. While looking into the situation, the hose ruptured and threw Rocha about 200 feet, dousing him with steam.

Rocha, who is in his 50s, was airlifted to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood where he was placed in the coma, Gipson said. Rocha is expected to be in the coma for about a month, he added.

“His hands, neck, back and legs were burned severely,” Gipson said.

The ArcelorMittal spokesman said Rocha is in stable condition. The hospital would not release any information citing patient confidentiality laws.

“Our thoughts are with the employee and his family,” the statement said.

Gipson said the union and steelmaker have launched a joint union-management investigation into the accident to determine the exact cause and if the incident could have been prevented.

“We want to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Gipson said.

ArcelorMittal confirmed a joint investigation is under way and no further information is available at this time. The company said it does not anticipate the incident will impact its ability to continue to serve its customers.

The Northwest Indiana Post-Tribune contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.