Processing Magazine

NC Slim Jim plant explosion claims fourth victim

November 23, 2009
A fourth victim has died from injuries suffered in a natural gas explosion that tore through a North Carolina Slim Jim plant five months ago, a hospital spokesman said, reported by the Associated Press. Curtis Ray Poppe, 55, died at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill, spokesman Tom Hughes said. Four critically burned victims were among the 71 who required hospital treatment after the June blast at the ConAgra Foods plant in Garner, said U.S. Chemical Safety Board lead investigator Don Holmstrom. More than 200 people were working in the plant when the explosion in the packaging area caused part of the roof to collapse. Three others killed as a result of the explosion were struck by debris or crushed when part of the building collapsed. Poppe worked for Energy Systems Analysts Inc., a Hickory company hired to install a water heater. Two federal agencies have blamed natural gas for the blast. The Chemical Safety Board said contractors installing the water heater likely vented natural gas inside the building before the explosion as they purged a gas line. Officials said the gas should be vented outside. ConAgra resumed diminished production at its Garner plant in July after paying plant workers'' wages for more than a month after the blast. The company said in September it would lay off about 300 of the factory''s 750 remaining workers. Federal officials expect the full investigation of the ConAgra plant blast to be finished in 2010.