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Fatal Ammonia Leak at Boston Warehouse Under Investigation

Fire officials said the man was inside the warehouse but emergency responders were unable to reach him initially because of the strong fumes when they arrived at Stavis Seafoods Warehouse

Investigation is underway after a worker died in an ammonia leak Wednesday at a seafood warehouse in the Seaport District in south Boston, authorities said.

Fire officials said the man was inside the warehouse but emergency responders were unable to reach him initially because of the strong fumes when they arrived at Stavis Seafoods Warehouse after receiving reports of a leak about 6 p.m. Wednesday.

The leak was reported near the end of a work shift when employees began noticing a strong odor and saw a leak coming from the plant.

Fire officials said it was coming from a 5,400-pound tank, but they didn't know how much ammonia had escaped before the main valve was shut off and the leak stopped. A hazmat team wearing protective suits stopped the leak within hours.

Ammonia is used as a refrigerant.

Richard Stavis, CEO of Stavis Seafoods, said company officials were devastated to learn that a warehouse employee had died and that they would work with authorities on their investigation.

"We are thankful that four employees who were in the building at the time were able to quickly and safely evacuate," he said in a statement.

Stavis said the employee who died would not be identified until his family had been notified.

"Our concern today is with the tragic death of our employee, his family and finding out what happened. The safety of our employees and our workplace is always our greatest priority," Stavis said in another statement Thursday morning.

Walsh said the public wasn't in danger. But as a precaution, nearby streets were closed off and business people and residents were advised to shelter in place or stay away from the area.

A strong smell of ammonia wafted over parts of the Seafood District.

The medical examiner is to determine the cause of death.

Fire officials didn't immediately return a call Wednesday night for further details.

In 2009, OSHA fined Stavis for 15 alleged violations at its channel street distribution and processing facility tied to its refrigeration system.

Among other things, the inspection cited improper inspection of equipment, no written respiratory protection plan for employees and that employees did not receive annual emergency response training.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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