Tuesday, June 9, 2009
An explosion has caused catastrophic damage to a ConAgra Foods plant on Jones Sausage Road in Garner, North Carolina in the United States. At least 300 people were at work in the plant at the time of the incident, 11:27 a.m. EDT (3:27 UTC) on June 9. Estimates indicate that up to 46 people were sent to area hospitals, and, as of 4:00 p.m. EDT, three people are still unaccounted for.
The plant was formerly owned by Raleigh, North Carolina based Goodmark Foods, but was purchased by ConAgra Foods seven years ago. The plant makes Slim Jim brand meat snacks, and at 50,000 square feet is one of ConAgra’s largest plants.
Eyewitnesses reported a loud explosion, and also reported the smell of ammonia. At least one of the building’s walls was blown outward, crushing a line of cars, and roof damage was visible in nearly all parts of the main building. Crews are working on containing a leak of anhydrous ammonia; it is unclear if the leak caused the explosion or was caused by the explosion. While area residents also reported smelling ammonia, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials on site have indicated that there is no general health risk to the local residents. Three firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation.
Injured employees were sent to several area hospitals, including WakeMed Raleigh Campus, WakeMed Cary, and Rex Hospital. Three patients are being treated at UNC Jaycees Burn Center in Chapel Hill for serious injuries. Uninjured employees were evacuated to the Garner Senior Center and several area churches donated the use of their vans to transport people home from the Senior Center.
The explosion caused several road closures in the area, including Interstate 40 Westbound and Jones Sausage Road.