Testing of a propellant system for a new space tourism vehicle at a Mojave Desert airport resulted in an explosion that left three workers dead and three others injured July 26.
Ygeniy Mikialovitch Gisin, better known to his friends as Gene, graduated from Cal Poly in 2005. The 26-year-old who graduated with a master’s degree in aeronautics was one of the few injured in the explosion.
Chelsie Romulo, a friend of Gene’s, started a facebook group in his honor. The group, titled “Gene,” shows overwhelming support from friends and family along with updates on his progress.
“His injuries were a fractured leg and a lot of shrapnel in his upper body that caused a lot of swelling,” Romulo said. “The nurse in the ICU told me that the swelling had gone down significantly.”
Romulo also mentioned Gisin had a concussion and the most damage was done to his lungs, which have been severely burned from nitrous oxide. Gisin has been put on a respirator.
“Gene is awake but groggy, tired and the doctors have ordered him not to talk in order to allow his throat a few more days to heal,” Romulo said.
Romulo says doctors do not want to work on any of his other injuries until his lungs are stable.
Gene’s parents, Mikail and Irena Gisin, have also requested, in the interest of their son’s health, that visitors be restricted until Gene’s condition has improved.
Gisin’s brother, Vitaliy Gisin, spoke out about his younger brother’s accident in an online interview with Kerro 23 News. He was unable to report the exact details of the explosion, a mystery that remains, but stated that his brother is doing quite well.
Vitaliy informed the media that Gene was “pursuing the dream of his life to work for an aerospace company.” He also professed that his brother understood the risks of working in the aeronautics industry.
On the positive side, Vitaliy acknowledged how glad he was that the accident happened here in America instead of somewhere else.
“If this would have happened in Russia, most likely he wouldn’t have received this level of care,” he told Kerro 23 News.
After the explosion, CBS News reported that a Kern County Medical Center official said two people died at the scene and one later died at the hospital after surgery.
Of the three injured, two were in critical condition and one was in serious condition.
The explosion took place at a Scaled Composites facility at the Mojave Air and Space Port.
Scaled Composites workers Todd Ivens, 33, Eric Blackwell, 38, and Glen May, 45, were killed in the explosion.
It occurred as they and other workers were conducting a routine cold-flow test of the oxidizer system for SpaceShipTwo spacecraft.
Scaled Composites is an aerospace development company founded 25 years ago by Burt Rutan, the aerospace engineer who designed the first plan to fly non-stop around the world without refueling.
Rutan graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, in 1965 and received the President’s Medal of Excellence from Cal Poly President Warren Baker in 2005.
CNN reported that Rutan said the blast occurred during a test involving nitrous oxide that was flowing through fuel injectors.
Rutan, who was on site during the time of the accident, said they had believed the test to be completely safe and have no idea why it exploded.
SpaceShipTwo is a small carbon fiber craft which is designed to carry seven passengers up to 65 miles above the earth, traveling at a speed averaged at 12,000 mph.
While entering the edge of space, passengers will experience weightlessness for about 15 minutes.
One ride in the spaceship, which is being built for Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson’s space tourism company, has an estimated ticket price of $200,000.
In a 2006 report, Branson told CNN, “What we’re trying to do is make space travel affordable and fun. Two years from now we’ll be starting to take ordinary people into space.”
The Scaled Composites firm has not let the value of their employees’ lives go unnoticed.
They have set up a Scaled Family Support Fund to help the families of its employees in the wake of the accident.
“All three families of the guys in the hospital are staying at the same hotel courtesy of Scaled Composites, although I believe another company now owns them,” Romulo said.
“The company director came to the hospital to give his condolences to all the families.”
All donations can be sent to the Scaled Family Support Fund in care of Scaled Composites at 1624 Flight Line in Mojave, CA, zip code 93501.