- Special Sections
- Public Notices
CATAWBA – A contractor was killed and two others injured Tuesday morning in an accident at Resolute Forest Products, the paper mill formerly known as AbitibiBowater.
According to York County Emergency Management Director Cotton Howell and a Resolute spokeswoman, the accident occurred around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday as three contractors were doing maintenance work inside a tank-like “scrubber” located behind the main production area.
Howell said the survivors’ descriptions suggests the three men were overcome by an unknown chemical inside the confined space.
“Two of the men were able to get out, but they were unable to get the third out and he died on the scene,” Howell said.
“One was transported by ambulance to the hospital and one by private vehicle.”
York County Coroner Sabrina Gast did not return a phone message by deadline Tuesday requesting the deceased man’s identity, though the Associated Press identified the victim as 39-year-old Samir Storey of Monroe, N.C.
The other two men, who remain unidentified, suffered non-life threatening respiratory injuries.
Resolute spokeswoman Debbie Johnston said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the York County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the accident.
Johnston said the tank where the accident occurred is part of the mill’s air-quality emissions system that collects fumes and gasses produced by the paper making process, which are then incinerated.
She said the tank is routinely opened and cleaned every nine months.
“All three of the men inside the tank were wearing their required personal protection devices and all three were trained to work on that tank,” Johnston said.
“Still, anytime there’s any kind of injury, regardless of whether it is fatal or not, we take it seriously.
“Safety is a very high priority for us and anytime anything happens, we realize we have to continue to work on safety and encourage our employees to look out for each other,” she said.
Tuesday morning’s accident is not the first for the paper mill.
Four employees suffered severe burns in May 2012 when they were sprayed with sodium hydroxide, or lye, from a ruptured pipe. The chemical, known as “white liquor” in the industry, is used to break wood fiber down into pulp during the paper making process.
Three of the employees were flown to burn centers in serious condition, the other was treated and released.
A third-party contractor was injured by the same chemical a month later when he was splashed in the face while transferring it from a tanker truck to a tank.
The plant suffered its worst accident in 2000 when two contract workers welding a pipe to a tank sparked a large explosion that killed them and injured several others.
Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151