Local News

Two Workers Dead After Suspected CO Poisoning Inside Wilson Plant

Posted February 17, 2007 2:27 p.m. EST
Updated February 18, 2007 6:03 p.m. EST

— Two contractors working at a Wilson plant died Saturday afternoon of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning after collapsing inside the facility.

According to City of Wilson spokesman Brian Bowman, a team of six contractors from Wheeler Electric were cutting concrete inside Kidde Aerospace and Defense at 4200 Airport Drive West early Saturday afternoon when Kidde workers found Ethan Jones and Melton Johnson about 12:30 p.m. They were rushed to Wilson Medical Center, where they later died.

Testing later showed carbon monoxide levels at more than 500 parts per million in the area where Jones and Johnson were working. That's 50 times more than what emergency officials consider safe.

"Carbon monoxide in general is a silent killer. You can't taste it, you can't smell it," Wilson Fire and Rescue Commander Mike Brown said.

North Carolina Department of Labor spokesman Juan Santos said investigators are looking into the possibility that the two men died of carbon monoxide poisoning after sealing off a room and turning on a gas-powered saw.

Officials said about 40 people were inside the Kidde plant when the accident occurred. Wilson Medical Center officials said 50 people were transported there as a precautionary measure, but they were treated and released.

"It was scary" said contractor Herbert Lee, who was amongst those taken to the hospital. "And you're there working too, almost in the same (part of the) building, and something like that, you've got to be scared."

Kidde spokesman Silvio Albino released a statement to WRAL late Saturday afternoon, saying company officials were extending their thoughts and prayers to Jones and Johnson's families. Albino said the company is cooperating with the investigation into the poisoning, but would not comment further about the incident.

Emergency officials shut down the plant and began clearing the air inside with industrial fans after the accident. Officials with the North Carolina Department of Labor arrived at the plant late Saturday afternoon to begin an investigation into the cause of the suspected poisoning. The plant is expected to reopen on Monday.