Local News

ConAgra workers recall explosion, helping others out of plant

Posted June 10, 2009 5:21 p.m. EDT
Updated June 11, 2009 12:03 a.m. EDT

— 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.



“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.

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.