Woman's death connected to ammonia leak say authorities

North Fire Department shows personnel diverting traffic in the Town of Woodford
North Fire Department shows personnel diverting traffic in the Town of Woodford

Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

SWANSEA, SC (WIS) - A woman is dead as a result of an ammonia leak at Tanner Industries near Swansea.

The Lexington County Fire Service and the S.C. Department of Health & Environmental Control (DHEC) responded to the chemical leak Wednesday morning.

David Binder with Tanner Industries says the ammonia leak occurred there shortly after 8am.

Tanner Industries is located near Highway 3 and 321 just south of the town of Swansea.

"We did have a leak of the compressed gas and hydrous ammonia, which happened during a unloading operation at our facility in Swansea," said Binder. "The leak... We're still investigating the quantity released [which] occurred when a transfer hose connecting the trailer to the storage tank burst and a hole formed, which allowed the ammonia gas to escape."

One woman is dead as a result of the ammonia leak. According to Major John Allard with the Lexington County Sheriff's Department, the woman was traveling north on Highway 321 when the cloud drifted over the highway.

Authorities believe she tried to turn her car around when she saw the ammonia cloud. Investigators believe the car may have stalled when it came into contact with the cloud. It's believed she then got out of her car. Her body was found next to it.

Authorities are not releasing the woman's name at this time, pending family notification. They believe her death is directly related to the leak.

Binder said, "All staff members at the site surrounding the leak were evacuated; local residents were immediately warned to vacate the area."

Major John Allard with the Lexington County Sheriff's Department said officials searched a total of 45 homes around the facility. No one was home in 19 of those homes, but they did find some damage to nearby homes from the ammonia.  No homes were evacuated, they advised people to stay out of the area.

Lexington County EMS treated a total of nine people and transported seven people to Lexington Medical Center. None of those transported had life-threatening injuries.

Binder said two of the seven people transported were employees at the facility.

The facility is secure, but not up and running yet.

Tanner Industries is sending an investigation team to the facility. The team, consisting of people from Tanner Industries and the carrier, Werner Transportation, should arrive Wednesday evening.

The leak is said to be under control, but authorities are still trying to determine how much was leaked.

Tanner Industries is a "specialty chemical company, and we handle anhydrous ammonia and ammonium hydroxide products." Binder says, "We distribute those products primarily for industrial use for those materials.

Binder says nothing like this has happened at the Swansea location before.

Residents around the affected area of the ammonia spill can call DHEC at 1-800-476-9677 if they have questions about returning to their home.

Copyright 2009 WIS. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.