Local News

Garner remembers ConAgra workers

Posted June 16, 2009

— Town officials held a moment of silence Tuesday morning to mark the one-week anniversary of a fatal explosion at a Garner food plant.

Comparing the explosion at the ConAgra Foods plant to President John F. Kennedy's assassination, Mayor Ronnie Williams said he would always remember where he was when the explosion rocked the plant on Jones Sausage Road, killing three and injuring dozens more.

Moment of silence for ConAgra Moment of silence held for plant explosion

"We will continue to grieve for what has happened," Williams said. "With that grief comes the healing process. That healing process will not happen quickly."

Williams called for a moment of silence at 11:27 a.m. – the time when the explosion was first reported on June 9 – and a bell tolled three times in honor of the three people killed.

ConAgra plant manager Mark Rauenzahn said the company also was marking the one-week anniversary by asking employees at all of its plants to stop work at 11:25 a.m. EDT and shut off their equipment to .

"Remember them in a way that suits your memories. Remember them in a way that brings joy to your hearts," Rauenzahn said. "Remember them as the community again bonds together as we go through the next few weeks."

Investigators have determined that a natural gas leak caused the explosion, which blew out a wall of the 425,000-square-foot plant and punched holes in the roof.

Four of the injured workers remain in critical condition in the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. One other worker was in fair condition Tuesday at the burn center, and another was in good condition.

"As tragic as this is, there's always a light, if you look hard enough, at the end of the tunnel," Garner Fire Chief Phil Mitchell said. "The light here is employees helping employees ... (and) emergency services came together."

Moment of silence for ConAgra plant explosion Workers return to ConAgra plant

ConAgra Foods asked about 50 employees to return to work Tuesday to help clean up the north end of the plant, which makes and packages Slim Jim beef jerky products. The south end is too damaged for workers to enter.

Company spokeswoman Stephanie Childs said officials understand returning to work might be difficult for some workers. Most of the 50 did return to the plant – some for the first time since the blast.

"There are some that are definitely willing to come back. There are others who have expressed it's just not the right time – they need a little more time," Childs said.

Counselors were to be on hand throughout the day, Childs said. The company also plans to provide counseling to employees who weren't able to return to work Tuesday, she said.

"It could have been me because I got off that morning," ConAgra employee Diane Richardson said. "I walked down that sidewalk where that wall fell on all those cars. I feel like crying now."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • churchgirl2 Jun 16, 2009

    I knew one of these family of Lewis Watson They suffer and still are suffering his lost of life. To all those who are saying suck it up be kind because you don't know when the next tragic event may it happen it could be any of us. I can not imagine the pain. And the comment about Lousianna I thought was uncalled for that was a Some of those people were left to defend theirselves against nature and the local & Federal Government. A lot of LA is poor. New Orleans is a show place. Have you ever been to LA? I have. The news is what called attention to that situation. President Bush was sadly misinformed or didn't care. Yeah FEMA was doing a great job there!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • WRALblows Jun 16, 2009

    Our entire office has decided to boycott the WRAL site as long as the highly annoying ad with the woman twirling the towel stays up. Is it worth the advertising dollars to drive people away from your site? I'm book marking abc11.com. See ya.

  • wcnc Jun 16, 2009

    "Since it looks like few employees will report to work today, is there any way people can volunteer to help with the clean-up?"

    If you actually read the article, it stated that the company asked 50 workers to return and that most of those 50 planned to do so. So, there is no need for any volunteers. In fact, that would be dangerous and counterproductive.

  • muttley - back by popular demand Jun 16, 2009

    Why hasn't the employees union (united meat packers union) been heard from yet?

  • muttley - back by popular demand Jun 16, 2009


    The paper says 900 employed at that plant, with about 300 at the time of the explosion.

  • onyourheels2 Jun 16, 2009

    how many jobs will be lost if they don't go back to work and the plant closes?

  • muttley - back by popular demand Jun 16, 2009

    Since it looks like few employees will report to work today, is there any way people can volunteer to help with the clean-up? If so, who do I contact?

  • familyfour Jun 16, 2009

    There will always be those who think that the greater good would come from catering to a few that will derail in any situation, rather than thinking of the bigger picture (and the people within it).

    You all can wish the plant closed for grievance purposes, but what will that really fix? Not their bills, their pocketbooks, or their feelings.

    I just wonder, all these people who think the plant shouldn't re-open...what is your fix to this?

    The plant can't run its self, so where are the paychecks coming from?

    Oh! I forgot. We are supposed to pick up that tab, too.

    Geeze. Buncha soft people. Stuff happens. Bad things happen. The world does not stop just because you feel the need to, whether you like it or not.

    Has it occurred to any of you that maybe some of these folks are more than ready to get back to work?

  • wakemom Jun 16, 2009

    y dont some of you that sitting here complaining saying suck it up go out and clean up at the location yourself. bet you wont do that. i can hear you saying it isnt safe. or u didnt work there so it is none of ur concern. if that is the case then leave the regular employees alone.

  • commonsensical Jun 16, 2009

    Wow. Maybe it's been too long since the last world war. Those who have experienced real hardship have since passed on and all we have are memories of their stories. Folks today are devastated when their air conditioner can't be repaired within a week, or their big screen TV quits and they have to watch the small one in the bedroom. If any WWII refugees that emigrated to the US in the 1940s were involved in this plant explosion, they'd have got up, cleaned up and been back to work before the dust settled. And all they'd have been expecting was their next paycheck.