Duke employee dead after 'steam release'

May 15, 2008 11:40:07 AM PDT
A Duke University employee was killed Wednesday when a steam line exploded in the basement of campus science building.

The steam line ruptured shortly before 3 p.m. in the mechanical room at the school's Levine Research Science Center, a 341,000-square-foot facility that houses animals and scientific samples, as well as classrooms, laboratory space and offices for several science departments.

The Duke University employee killed in an accident on campus Wednesday has been identified as Rayford Cofer, 63.

Cofer, a master steam fitter, was working in a mechanical room in the basement of the Levine Science Research Center when the accident occurred before 3 p.m.

Employees were evacuated from the building following the blast, and officials said a significant amount of water is pooling in the building's basement. Dawkins said the water will need to be tested and pumped out before power can be restored.

Dawkins said there were no previous problems with the building's systems.

A resident of Franklinton, Cofer was a respected and honored employee in Duke's Facilities Management Department (FMD). Cofer, who began work with FMD in 2001, was a two-time Meritorious Service Award winner, one of the top employee honors at Duke. He received the awards in 2002 and 2004. He won many other departmental awards.

"It is a sad day for Duke," Vice President for Campus Services Kemel Dawkins said Wednesday evening. "Our thoughts and prayers are with [Cofer's] family at this time."


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