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Phoenix electrician dead after fire in underground electrical vault

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PHOENIX (KPNX) – An APS worker is dead after a fire in an underground electrical vault in downtown Phoenix near 1st Avenue and Washington Street Sunday night, Phoenix fire says.

APS identified the man killed as Rick Castillo, a father, husband, grandfather and electrician at the company for 12 years. The company noted that his co-workers called him Rico.


Rick Castillo/12 News

APS sent the following statement Monday afternoon:

We are mourning the loss of a member of the APS family. Rick Castillo was a loving husband, father, grandfather and man of faith. To his co-workers, he was a brother they called Rico.

He was highly regarded in his community for his work in youth and men’s ministry at his church and at APS for his 12 years of service as an electrician. Rick’s family has asked that their privacy be respected during this difficult time.

Our hearts are with the Castillo family as well as a member of Rico’s crew, who was injured last night in the same accident.

According to Phoenix FD, two workers were involved in the incident, which has been described as an explosion. Firefighters found a “large amount of fire” coming from an APS manhole when they arrived on the scene just after 10:30 p.m.

Phoenix fire says one of the workers was able to get out of the vault himself. He had minor burns to his face and hands. He was taken to Maricopa Medical Burn Center in stable condition.

Fire crews had to wait until APS de-energized the vault. Once the fire was out, firefighters discovered Castillo dead, according to Phoenix fire.

Phoenix FD says APS has informed them that there will be “numerous power outages” in several buildings in downtown Phoenix that could potentially last throughout the day Monday.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. APS released a statement Monday morning saying the two workers were performing “planned maintenance” in the underground vault.

“We are deeply saddened to report that an APS employee died, and another was injured, in an accident on Sunday night while they were performing planned maintenance. They were working in downtown Phoenix in an underground vault that houses electrical infrastructure. The underground equipment involved serves downtown facilities and venues, some of which are without power today until the area can be deemed safe and repairs can be completed. The cause of the accident will be fully investigated.

Our focus is on the safety of those actively working the scene, the well-being of these employees’ co-workers and families and restoring power safely and quickly once repairs can begin. APS cannot provide an estimated time to have the power back on until more is known at the scene.”

APS says buildings in the area are without power

– Wells Fargo

– Phoenix Municipal Building

– Maricopa County Administration Building

– Phoenix Civic Plaza South.

Other sites, including the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown, are working with “partial power,” APS said.

Maricopa County said there are several county buildings closed in the area including the downtown administration building located at 301 W. Jefferson, Downtown Justice Center and Superior Court.

BREAKING: A fire and power outage in downtown Phoenix has led to the closure of several County buildings today. …

Posted by Maricopa County on Monday, July 1, 2019

The Maricopa County Sherrif’s Office says the 4th Avenue Jail was not affected by the power outages, but the facility is on “security override for security precautions.”

Several streets in downtown Phoenix are closed

– 1st Avenue between Washington and Jefferson

– 1st Avenue southbound from Van Buren to Jefferson

– 1st Avenue between Adams and Van Buren

– Washington Street between 3rd Avenue and Central Avenue

– Monroe between 2nd Avenue to Central Avenue

– Adams Street from 2nd Avenue to Central Avenue

The light rail stations at 1st Avenue/Van Buren, 1st Avenue/Jefferson, 3rd Street/Jefferson were closed through the morning and early afternoon. The stations reopened around 1:30 p.m.