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ConAgra worker: 'Oh my God, this is horrible'

Posted June 15, 2009

The roof of a Garner food plant collapsed Tuesday morning, June 9, 2009. The 425,454-square-foot ConAgra Foods plant is at 4851 Jones Sausage Road.
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— In the minutes after a Garner food plant exploded last week, managers tried to account for workers, hysterical employees tended to injured friends and people begged for emergency assistance.

A series of 911 calls released Monday by Garner police reflect the chaos that reigned inside and outside the ConAgra Foods plant following last Tuesday's fatal blast.

"We've had an explosion and a collapse, and we need all the people you can send," a man told a 911 dispatcher. "Oh my God, this is horrible."

"I think a gas line blew up. We've got people who have been burned. We need emergency (help) ASAP," a female caller to 911 said. "We've got a lot of people who are bloody. ... Some are really burned. ... People are still running out."

About 300 workers were inside the 425,000-square-foot plant on Jones Sausage Road at the time. The explosion blew out one wall, punched holes in the roof, sparked several fires and ruptured the plant's ammonia lines.

Three people were killed in the blast, and dozens more were injured. Four workers remain in critical condition in the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, and one each is in fair and good condition.

A seventh patient was discharged from the burn center Monday and was recovering at home.

Investigators said Saturday that a gas leak in the packaging area of the plant, which makes Slim Jim beef jerky products, caused the explosion.

Agents with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board and the state Division of Occupational Health and Safety are examining equipment and reviewing employee training records to determine the cause of the gas leak and how it sparked the explosion. The results of their investigation aren't expected for months.

In several 911 calls, emergency sirens and employees' screams and moans can be heard as dispatchers try to grasp the scope of the incident.

"How many people are injured," dispatchers repeatedly asked.

"There are people laying everywhere," one woman said. "There's a bunch of people in there that didn't make it out."

Some of the callers began crying when they saw some of their injured co-workers.

"The building is still blowing up," another woman said. "What in the world happened?"

One man tells a dispatcher he's with a victim whose "clothes are burned up," but said the man was conscious and responsive. Several callers describe workers who have been bloodied by debris from the roof collapse.

"There are people bleeding. Stuff fell on people's heads," one woman said. "The ceiling came down. Water's everywhere."

16 Comments

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  • anne53ozzy Jun 15, 2009

    This is a terrible tragedy. There may or may not be negligence involved. I urge everyone to wait for the analysis of this explosion before you foster blame or propose that a lawsuit is the fix to this incident. Much as though one works around a grain elevator, you may detect a smell associated with that industry and the by-products of such. It does not mean that someone was negligent. Perhaps so. There is also the possiblity that, over time, everyone thought it was "business as usual". Gas is volatile in a paricular combination of product, O2 and ignition source. It is hard to recogonize before it occurs in certain circumstances, much like the electrical wire that may smolder and then ignite. I would suggest that blame be held back until we know enough to understand this awful accident.

  • delilahk2000 Jun 15, 2009

    aindi< My comment, I was not the only one asking this question I am all for helping people and keep your smart comments to yourself. It was a reasonable question!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • christinebbd Jun 15, 2009

    Lyle, You caught me! Due to my intense desire to control opinions of fine North Carolinians such as yourself, I sent an invisible force to hold you in a headlock, with toothpicks holding your eyes open, forcing you to read news articles you don't want to read anymore.

    What goes around comes around. You'll find yourself on the other end of the stick, it's only a matter of time. And when it does, good people will come to your aid because that's what good people do. The fringe of society will stand back in the shadows, whining, much like what we see on today's message board.

    Whine away! 'WE' outnumber you...thank God.

  • anne53ozzy Jun 15, 2009

    to rajstapes: there is an arogance born of this religious superiority that should rankle anyone who reads these kinds of posts. Take solace in your faith and please do so without suggesting that this is "okay" because your God says so. There is no consolation in loss from such as you. Feel safe in your religion; but please do not preach to others in this way as though this loss is matter of fact. Why not pray for support and love for these families? God bless you.

  • gingerlynn Jun 15, 2009

    I have never seen a lawsuit filed so fast!

  • rajstapes Jun 15, 2009

    All the bitterness needs to stop!! The Lord has appointed everyone a time to die. None of us know when that time is or how it will happen. Playing the blame game is pointless. Why did only three people die? And why those three? Only God can answer that question. Our concern should be, will we be ready when our time comes? The bible does state that we can die before our time. But there again, only The Lord knows that!!

  • Professor Jun 15, 2009

    WRAL continue to bring us the news on this tragedy.

  • Professor Jun 15, 2009

    The families should sue the company. Someone did smell gas and nothing was done. Sue them so that this will never happen again.

  • Lyle Jun 15, 2009

    And, christine, no one needs you to censor people's opinions, thank you.

  • Lyle Jun 15, 2009

    "Why would anyone want to listen to someone's desperate cries for help?"

    You'd have to ask christinebbd for an answer to that. I'm sure she has listened to the desperate cries over and over again because it's "local coverage", and it's somehow vital.It seems kind of voyeuristic to me.

    Christine, I disagree with your points. Today's N&O story profiled the grisly details of the gentleman whose hand was torn off, etc etc and while I perhaps needed to know the magnitude of the destruction in the first days, there comes a point when it's over-saturation. You really don't purport to speak for the families, do you?

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