Local News

Family: ConAgra worker died saving a co-worker

Posted June 10, 2009 6:07 p.m. EDT
Updated June 10, 2009 8:28 p.m. EDT

— Family members of ConAgra Foods employee Louis Junior Watson said Wednesday they were told he died while helping a co-worker try to escape.

Relatives said coworkers told them Watson, 33, of Clayton, was on his way out of the plant after the 11:30 a.m. explosion on Tuesday.

Watson went back in to help the co-worker.

"He was almost out," said Richard Johnson, the family's pastor. "He went back to help her." 

When Watson went back in the building, the structure caved in on both of them, family members said.

Family members said Watson was an employee of ConAgra for 13 years and was an active member of his church. He is survived by his wife and their three teenage children.

"He was a dedicated father, a dedicated husband and a dedicated worker. He put everything he had into his job," said his wife, Terry Watson. "He just loved to help people."

Watson was also a member of the company's safety team. Terry Watson said her husband enjoyed being on the safety team and making sure the building was safe for everyone.

Watson was among the nearly 300 workers in the plant at 4851 Jones Sausage Road when the explosion occurred. Many suffered from exposure to toxic fumes from ammonia leaks and some also suffered severe burns, authorities said.

He was one of three workers to die in the explosion. The other victims were identified as Barbara McLean Spears, 43, of Dunn, and Rachel Mae Poston-Pulley, 67, of Clayton.

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.

ConAgra officials have set up a fund to help employees and their families who need extra assistance. The company is asking its 25,000 nationwide employees to contribute. ConAgra's corporate office is donating $100,000 to the fund.

Local clergy and community leaders will host a candlelight vigil for ConAgra victims at 8 p.m. Friday at Wake Baptist Grove, 302 E. Main St. in Garner. The public is invited to attend. People are encouraged to bring their own candles.