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ConAgra workers recall explosion, helping others out of plant

Posted June 10, 2009
Updated June 11, 2009

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— ConAgra Foods employee Tracy Hinton said she found the strength to crawl out of the Garner plant following a Tuesday explosion by thinking of her 6-year-old daughter.

Employee recalls escape from ConAgra plant Employee recalls escape from ConAgra plant

“I had to live for my daughter. I had to get out of there,” Hinton said.

Hinton was one of the nearly 300 workers in the plant at 4851 Jones Sausage Road when the explosion occurred shortly before 11:30 a.m. Many suffered from exposure to toxic fumes from ammonia leaks and some also suffered severe burns, authorities said.

Hinton, a temporary worker who started at the company five weeks ago, suffered burns on her ears and the back of her neck.

“It was a big explosion,” Hinton said.

Hinton was among the dozens of workers injured in the explosion. Three workers were killed.

Hinton visited the Garner Senior Center on Wednesday to find out if her medical bills would be covered. As a temporary worker, she did not have a benefits package.

“I have no insurance. If they can help me, I’ll be all right,” Hinton said.

ConAgra officials said they would take care of medical expenses and funeral expenses. Employees also will continue to be paid for the foreseeable future, officials said.

Another employee, Harry Woods, was inside the plant during the explosion and made it out with minor injuries. He said he was about to leave the building when he heard a call for help.

"You hear this guy saying, ‘Help me, help me,’" Woods said.

Employee pulled another from plant Employee pulled another from plant

Woods said he knew he was lucky to survive the first explosion and wasn’t sure if there would be another.

"In my mind, I say, ‘Do I leave him and take care of myself?’ But you can't,” he said.

Woods said he and another worker lifted the injured man out of the building. The victim had severe damage on his left side and could not walk.

“We had to do what we had to do to get him out,’ Woods said.

While some workers that arrived at the Senior Center on Wednesday said they hoped to return to work, Hinton says she won't return to ConAgra.

“I can’t sleep now because all I think about is this explosion,” Hinton said.

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  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jun 11, 2009

    What if Ms. Hinton's medical costs sky rocket because she gets an infection from her burns? (which is the primary reason that burn victims die) Or, what if they refuse to pay for her skin grafts? They pay for 1 graft, but not the other 10. There are just too many reasons...too much gray area...for ConAgra to pay for everything she needs.

    We cannot rely on businesses to do the right thing...every time...for everyone. They won't...or can't.

  • Sidekick Jun 11, 2009

    In this case, taking care of folks like Ms. Hinton's medical expenses are legitimate and ConAgra needs to step up and do so. Any time a worker is injured on the job the company that hired them should be responsible for there safety and well being. But if that employee goes out after work and gets drunk and gets injured, who should take care of them then? This has nothing to do with taking care of fellow Americans that choose not to buy health insurance.

  • lisa4 Jun 11, 2009

    God bless the victims families and the injured. Ms. Hinton made the comment that she did have any insurance and she was trying to get assistance. Even though she was temporary I surely hope ConAgra steps in to pay her medical bills. After all, she was injured on the jobsite. There should be something that ConAgra could do for her.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jun 11, 2009

    If ConAgra goes down or just decides to have a "policy change", these people will have no health care.

    It's reasons like this that we need universal health care.

    And, if you're a state employee...you know you're on the chopping block...what happens when your insurance is gone and you get sick or hurt...or have a pre-existing condition?

    What is so difficult about taking care of fellow Americans?