Three dead after ConAgra plant explosion, all inside now accounted for

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

After an explosion Tuesday at a ConAgra Food plant in Garner, North Carolina in the United States, three employees were unaccounted for as search teams carefully worked through the rubble. The search was hampered by stormy weather, darkness of night, and the instability of the partially collapsed building. The bodies of all three have now been recovered. They were Rachel Mae Poston Pulley, Lewis Watson, and Barbara Spears.

The latest estimate is that 41 people were transported to area hospitals, including seven to the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill. Of those seven, four remain in critical condition, two are in fair condition, and one is in good condition. A prayer vigil is scheduled for Friday night at an area church for the dead and injured.

Garner, North Carolina
Image: Seth Ilys.

The cause of the explosion is still unknown, though investigators from several agencies have already begun examining the remains of the building for clues. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board is already on scene investigating, and the National Response Team of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will arrive Thursday to conduct their own investigation.

KYTX-TV News is reporting that police are investigating a suspicious phone call to the plant over the weekend, but will not comment if that call is related to the accident.

ConAgra CEO Gary Rodkin has already taken steps to compensate the injured employees. They will continue to receive their regular paychecks for the foreseeable future. In addition, the company itself has started a United Way fund to support the families of those involved in the accident. It has seeded the fund with US$100,000 of its own money, and is encouraging ConAgra employees from other internationally located plants to donate to the fund as well.

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