A worker died Wednesday night inside a Stavis Seafoods warehouse in South Boston, as found by a Boston fire department personnel who responded to reports of an ammonia leak in the premises.
The still-unidentified adult male victim was found on the cold storage facility’s second floor by the stairwell, according to Fire Chief of Operations John Walsh, who said that the leak was reported by warehouse employees by the end of their shift.
Fire personnel responded before 6 in the evening to a report of a leak at the warehouse, situated at 7 Channel Street. Soon afterwards, they declared a level 3 hazmat situation, requiring the authorities in the scene to wear full proper gear.
Four other workers escaped and all of them had been accounted for by fire officials, who attempted to rescue the sole casualty – pronounced dead right at the scene – but could no longer reach him.
“They made a valiant effort, but they were pushed back by the ammonia,” says fire department spokesperson Steve MacDonald in a Boston Globe report.
The overwhelming smell of ammonia hindered the fire crew from accessing the building, although they were able to eventually close the main valve and stop the leak.
The building is said to hold around 5,300 pounds of ammonia, although the cause of the substance’s leak, as well as any previous safety issues in the building, is still being investigated at the moment. Foul play has been ruled out in the worker’s death.
Boston police authorities are investigating the incident, while the medical examiner will conduct an autopsy to determine the worker’s cause of death. Stavis Seafoods, on the other hand, noted its cooperation in a statement, saying they were “devastated” with what happened.
A number of streets surrounding the warehouse were closed off, with police advising people to stay far from the area while authorities were conducting the operation.
A strong and colorless gas, ammonia could cause poisoning through inhalation. Humans could also be poisoned through swallowing or coming into contact with products containing a very large amount of this gas, which is found in some household cleaners, liniments, and fertilizers.
Symptoms of ammonia poisoning include coughing, severe chest pain and tightness, difficulty breathing, and wheezing.
In this case, ammonia is used as an industrial refrigerant.
Photo: Tony Webster | Flickr