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UNI - Rialto - crime scene

University of Northern Iowa employees and police investigate a steam leak behind crime-scene tape at Rialto dining facility on the UNI campus Monday. A UNI employee was killed in a "major steam leak" event, officials say.

CEDAR FALLS — A “sudden, catastrophic failure” of a 2-inch capped pipe drain in a steam tunnel likely led to the massive steam release Sept. 10 that killed a longtime University of Northern Iowa worker, a report released Thursday shows.

HBK Engineering compiled the report at the request of UNI in the days following the death of Kevin J. Bley, 61, a 10-year facilities management employee who died from his injuries in the steam distribution system tunnel.

In the report, dated Oct. 2 but provided to the Courier by UNI officials Thursday, HBK detailed its findings after being onsite Sept. 11-12, speaking with unnamed UNI personnel, reviewing the steam system design and reviewing UNI’s safety protocol document.

The report was signed off on by HBK project engineer Matt Thomas.

After initially not finding the cause of the steam leak Sept. 11, HBK and UNI staff ran tests on the system Sept. 12, eventually finding the missing center part of a 2-inch capped pipe drain was the “likely” culprit.

“In HBK’s opinion, the sudden, catastrophic failure of this cap is the likely cause of the incident,” the report notes. “Such a failure would have allowed steam to immediately enter the utility tunnel and would likely have resulted in a loud noise, like the one a UNI worker reported hearing at the same time as the incident.”

Thomas noted in the report HBK was not able to review employee safety training records, written startup procedures or maintenance records. UNI officials say that’s because Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration is reviewing those records.

“It’s not that we don’t have them — it’s the fact that OSHA got them first,” said Aaron Clingingsmith, interim director for the Office of University Relations.

Iowa OSHA will also release a report, which Clingingsmith said has no timetable. That’s part of the reason UNI wanted to release the information from HBK now, he said.

“It could be a couple weeks or a couple months, or longer,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we kept the communication line going with our faculty and staff.”


HBK Engineering personnel discovered a failed cap that likely lead to the massive steam leak that killed a UNI worker on Sept. 10.


HBK Engineering personnel discovered a failed cap that likely lead to the massive steam leak that killed a UNI worker on Sept. 10.

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Multimedia Reporter

Multimedia Reporter at The Courier

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