Investigators identify victim in deadly ammonia leak at Iredell County warehouse

1 dead, 3 hurt after ammonia leak at Iredell County warehouse

IREDELL COUNTY, N.C. — Hazmat crews are continuing to monitor a cold storage warehouse days after a deadly ammonia leak in Iredell County.

The leak happened around 2 p.m. Friday at Lineage Logistics on Taylorsville Highway in Statesville.

Officials said a subcontractor was killed and another worker was hurt after an exposure to anhydrous ammonia.

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Investigators identified the worker who died in the accident as Anthony Lamattino of Woodstock, Georgia.

Anhydrous ammonia is commonly used in food preparation because it rapidly dehydrates things.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if inhaled, the ammonia can cause nausea, vomiting, and burns to the mouth, throat, and stomach. If it comes in contact with the skin, it can cause severe burns when combined with water in the body. Prolonged exposure can be deadly.

The Iredell County Sheriff’s Office said both men were working on pipes in a freezer unit when the chemical leak happened.

Deputies said they’re waiting for futher information from the Medical Examiner’s Office.

Chopper 9 Skyzoom flew over the business and dozens of people could be seen outside the building as crews in hazmat suits investigated the warehouse.

Crews also appeared to have set up treatment areas around the building for exposure victims.

Channel 9 learned that officials gave families the option to evacuate. They were later told it was OK to return home. On Sunday, officials said air monitoring outside the plant showed levels well below where there would be concern for residents and it should not cause health concerns.

They said at this time, there is no impact on the safety of those living or working near the plant.

One resident told Eyewitness News reporter Genevieve Curtis that she was starting to get a headache so her family decided to leave after the leak on Friday.

“They said we didn’t have to go, but it might be better for us and the dogs,” nearby resident Catherine Ciro said. “I wasn’t so happy about it, but I was getting dizzy from the smell.”

There was an odor in the air that smelled like chemicals, she said.

It’s unclear what caused the leak, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating.

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“It does flash-freezing of chicken products, so the anyhdrous ammonia is used in that production of freezing the chicken,” said Karyn Yaussy, with Iredell County Emergency Management.

According to OSHA, the Statesville location does not have any inspections on file, but officials said the agency does not do regular inspections on refrigerator services.

Channel 9 dug into records and found a 2016 OSHA citation at the company’s location in Texas, for “safety failures that exposed workers and community to serious dangers of anhydrous ammonia.”

The company was fined $58,000.

Read the full citation report here.

Lineage Logistics, which has locations all over the world, provides cold storage and transportation for food.

Lineage Logistics statement: “Earlier today, there was an ammonia release at our facility in Statesville, N.C. that resulted in the death of a Lineage Logistics sub-contractor.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of this individual. We are working in close coordination with local authorities and regulatory officials to conduct a full investigation. Lineage’s top priority is the health and safety of our employees, partners, and the communities in which we live and operate.

"We take compliance with all applicable state and federal regulations extremely seriously and will be working with all relevant agencies during our investigation. To ensure consistent and centralized communications during this process, we will work closely with local authorities and regulatory officials to provide further updates.”

Authorities told Channel 9 crews will be breaking down the ammonia, cleaning it up and the company will have to decide what to do with all the food that was exposed to the chemical.

Check back with wsoctv.com for updates.

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