Two Workers Mysteriously Found Dead After Hazmat Incident at Manufacturing Plant

Two workers have died after they were found unresponsive following a hazardous materials incident at a manufacturing plant in North Carolina on Sunday afternoon.

Officials responded to the scene at 1309 Industrial Drive Fayetteville just after 1:30 p.m. to find the employees, who later died following the incident.

The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, the City of Fayetteville Fire Department HAZMAT and Pearce's Mill Volunteer Fire Department responded and evacuated a building at Valley Proteins, according to a statement issued by Cumberland County Sheriff Ennis W. Wright.

The North Carolina OSHA Emergency Response Team also responded to the incident, according to deputies.

The Sheriff’s Office responded to Vally Proteins, Inc after two employees were found unresponsive. The 911 call came in just before 1:30pm this afternoon. Hazmat Team is on scene. More details will be released at the appropriate time. pic.twitter.com/XB5rK1rUUo

— Sheriff Ennis Wright (@Sheriff_EWright) September 12, 2021

The employees are believed to have worked for Valley Proteins, Inc, a company that collects, renders and recycles animal by-products and supermarket waste, according to its website.

Detectives from the major crimes unit are investigating the cause of the deaths, and the Sheriff's Office said it would release more details once the victims' next of kin had been notified.

"Our deepest sympathies are with their families, friends, and coworkers during this time," Sheriff Wright said.

Gerald Burke, a mechanic who works at the plant, said he didn't hear anything suspicious at the time and wasn't sure what happened. "It's just awful," Burke told ABC11. "I don't know what happened."

Another plant employee, who spoke to WRAL on the condition of anonymity, said working can be risky and believed the workers were exposed to hydrogen sulfide while working in a pit inside the plant.

"Every single employee has an H2S [hydrogen sulfide] monitor that will start beeping if it detects H2S in the air, and the faster it beeps, the higher the content," the Valley Proteins employee told the outlet.

The staff member also said that workers knew something was wrong on Sunday when an employee tried to radio in and didn't receive a response.

"They were discovered by two production employees who happened to be walking by the area and found them face down, unresponsive," the employee said.

Records with Occupational Safety and Health Administration obtained by WRAL reportedly showed nine violations at the Fayetteville plant in 2012 and 2013.

Newsweek has contacted the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office and Valley Proteins, Inc for comment.

Working in processing and manufacturing plants often comes with safety risks and exposure to hazardous chemicals.

There were 5,333 fatal work injuries recorded across the United States in 2019—the largest annual number since 2007, the latest figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed.

The number equates to a fatal work injury rate of 3.5 fatalities per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, according to data obtained from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.

Events involving transportation incidents accounted for the largest share of fatalities, while exposure to harmful substances or environments led to the deaths of 642 workers in 2019.

An explosion inside a Dippin' Dots factory in Paducah, Kentucky, made headlines in July this year when ten people were taken to hospital for injuries sustained in the blast, just two years after a similar explosion at the same facility in 2019.

Liquid nitrogen was reportedly being unloaded from a truck when the explosion took place, Paducah Police spokeswoman Robin Newberry told reporters at the time.

 beef processing factory
A file photo of workers preparing beef to be exported to Indonesia at a processing factory in China. China Photos/Getty Images