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Man Medavaced After Ammonia Leak, Current Health Status Unknown

Dec 5, 2016

Credit Laura Kraegel/KUCB

A man was medeva​ced from Unalaska on Saturday after suffering seri​ous injuries from an amm​onia leak at the Kloosterboer cold storage facility.

Deputy Police Chief Jennifer Shockley said the man was inside an industrial freezer when its ammonia line began leaking. 

After he was "extricated and deconta​minated," the man was flown to Anchorage and then Seattle for emergency treatment. His current medical status is unknown, but Shockley said ammonia poses significant health hazards.

"It can cause a burning sensation on any exposed skin," she said. "Mucus membranes are also affected by it — your mouth, nose, and lungs."

Thirteen emergency responders and a seven-person hazmat team responded to the incident Saturday at 12:45 p.m. Shockley said they quickly contained the leak inside the freezer, but she didn't know how​ long it took to shut off the ammonia supply entirely. 

The responders — from the Unalaska Department of Public Safety and the UniSea hazmat team — were on-scene for more than six ​hours, ventilating the building and keeping the area outside clear of people. Shockley said they deemed the facility s​afe to enter without breathing aides on Sunday around 10 a.m.

Police ar​e now investig​ating the cause of the leak.

"We'll have an investigator looking into it — basically, documenting what happened and getting statements from people," said Shockley. "Not because we think there's anything criminal, but because the time to do an investigation is when an incident happens."

Kloosterboer is also investigating, according to Ron Rogness, the vice president of corporate relations for American Seafoods Group, which owns the cold storage company.

Rogness said the investigation is happening with cooperation from "various regulatory agencies." He would not say which agencies are involved or whether the results of the investigation will be made public.