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Forklift likely cause of illness at Bladen County blueberry plant

Two workers were hospitalized Tuesday evening after becoming ill at the Carolina Blueberry Association in Garland, according to the plant's general manager Rod Bangert.

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GARLAND, N.C. — A forklift caused a carbon monoxide leak that hospitalized at least 20 workers at a blueberry plant in Garland Tuesday evening, a plant representative said.

Workers at the the Carolina Blueberry Association complained of respiratory distress around 7 p.m., the plant's general manager Rod Bangert said.

A plant representative said that she wasn't sure of the precise number of workers who were ill, but that at least 20 were treated and released from three hospitals in Bladen, Cumberland and Sampson counties. She couldn't say how many workers were at the plant, because that varies with seasonal labor.

Hazmat crews were able to enter the plant early Wednesday and determined that a faulty forklift had been leaking carbon monoxide.

Inspectors with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were to come out Wednesday to investigate. Once they give the all clear, the plant will reopen, the representative said.

Employees were allowed back to the facility to pick up their vehicles.


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