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2 killed as explosion rocks Veterans Affairs hospital campus in Connecticut

One of victims in the West Haven steam-pipe blast was a Navy veteran
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Two people were killed when a steam pipe exploded at a Veterans Affairs hospital campus in Connecticut on Friday, officials said.

The blast happened a little after 8 a.m. in a maintenance building that's on VA grounds, but separate from the medical clinic in West Haven, according to a hospital spokesman.

Three other workers suffered minor injuries from the explosion that happened as they replaced a basement steam pipe, according to Alfred Montoya, medical center director for VA Connecticut Healthcare System.

One of those killed was a Navy veteran, Montoya said. The two victims were not immediately identified.

“This is really a sad day for all of us," said Ryan Lilly, director of the VA New England Healthcare System.

Medical care at that VA, which is about 75 miles north of Midtown Manhattan and 45 miles south of the Connecticut state capitol in Hartford, was expected to continue.

“The hospital is continuing to function no patient at the hospital should be affected," U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, told reporters in Washington. “Care at the hospital apparently is ongoing at the same level as always.”

Blumenthal and his Connecticut colleague, U.S. Sen Chris Murphy, both called for a major overhaul, if not a total replacement, of that West Haven campus.

"This facility dates from the 1950s, it has the structure and bones of a 1950s building with a newer shell. But I can tell you, having visited here so many times, this tragedy is only the latest indication that this building is past its sell-by date," Blumenthal told reporters, later Friday at the VA campus in West Haven.

“The mechanics that were involved in this repair are an important factor in the tragedy."

Murphy singled out out the campus' heating and air conditioning systems that he called "far too old."

"And while they've made a lot of upgrades, it’s part of the reason why the entire campus does need to be rebuilt," Murphy said in Washington.

Local fire marshals and detectives with the state police's Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit responded to the hospital at 950 Campbell Ave. in West Haven, authorities said.