LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Tyco officials and OSHA are investigating a Tuesday morning incident that sent 12 people to the hospital. The 45-year-old victim remains in critical condition. The accident happened just after 11 a.m. during what plant officials call a maintenance procedure during which hydrogen sulfide gas was produced.
Eight-teen firefighters responded to a rescue call at the Tyco Building and Fire Products plant. An employee fell into one of the company's 1500 gallon tanks which had sulfuric acid, hydrogen peroxide and several other chemicals. At some point according to the Lubbock Fire Department the unforeseen mixture created hydrogen sulfide gas.
"The gentleman in the tank crawled on top to open the lid. He breathed in the gas and passed out and fell into the tank," says Fire Chief Rhea Cooper. A concerned co-worker tried to rescue the man by cutting a hole in the tank.
"Hydrogen sulfide at the levels this person experienced can be paralyzing, instantly," says Cooper. At lower levels, the gas smells like rotten eggs and is the same type found in oil fields. "He opened the tank and took in enough causing him to collapse instantly, that's how bad the gas is," adds Cooper.
The fire department detected high levels of the gas near the tank, but because of the isolated nature of where the tank was located the entire building was not evacuated.
Seven Tyco employees, three EMS responders and two Lubbock Firefighters were transported to University Medical Center. "Respiratory problems are the most common symptom that was experienced," says Greg Bruce
Those transported to UMC were decontaminated at the scene and decontaminated a second time by Hazmat teams outside the hospital.
Tyco released this statement Tuesday afternoon by Lionel Buenaventura, Tyco Director of Operations.
"This incident occurred in a self-contained area of the plant used for waste treatment. We are investigating this incident. There were no uncontrolled emissions of fumes outside the factory. Right now our concern is for the health and welfare of the employees who were taken to the hospital."
The man who fell inside the tank is still listed in critical condition at UMC. Another victim, a 34-year- old, remains in satisfactory condition. All other patients have been treated and released.
In addition to Tyco conducting an internal investigation, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA will also be conducting an investigation.
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