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Toxic gas leak is cause of death at packing facility

Posted on by SST

One worker died and 16 others were hospitalized after being exposed to a high concentration of carbon monoxide in a packing warehouse, according to The Asheville Citizen Times.

Employees at Norton Creek Farms were packing produce on Aug. 3 when two workers became unconscious inside the refrigeration center. The Clarks Chapel Fire and Rescue team responded to a call and rushed inside the building. They pulled the two unconscious employees out of the building.

"The [worker] that I went to – I checked his pulse, he didn't have a pulse, so I just immediately grabbed him and got him out of the building," said Tim Keener, the chief of the unit. "The other gentleman was breathing a little bit."

The unconscious man later died at the hospital of cardiac arrest. Others on the scene had begun showing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning within minutes. Of the 16 treated for carbon monoxide poisoning, 4 were helpful bystanders assisting the operation and 11 were deputies, paramedics or firefighters.

"They started getting sick, you started to see them sweating profusely, they started turning red, their eyes swelling shut, started vomiting," said Matt Mason, assistant chief.

The condition of the other worker pulled from the building is unknown.

Mason was using a toxic gas detector that indicated the levels of carbon monoxide leaving the building were extremely lethal. He explained that the monitor was warning him of the gas even when he was standing up to 30 feet away from the facility.

Inspectors believe that the gas leak may have originated in one of the building's refrigerator units, but have not finished their investigation.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless gas found that can damage soft tissue and result in death when people are exposed to high levels.

Industrial Safety News brought to you by Safety Systems Technology, Inc., leaders in fire and gas detection.

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