Explosion kills man at Lamb-Weston

Rescue vehicles sit outside a building Monday at the Con Agra Lamb-Weston potato processing plant in Boardman after a worker died in an industrial accident.<br><I>Staff photo by E.J. Harris

A man died after he was buried in debris following an explosion at Con Agra Foods Lamb-Weston in Boardman Monday afternoon.

Boardman Police Chief John Zeiler identified the victim as Kevin Paul Gregerson, 21, of Hermiston, an employee of Northwest Metal Fabricators.

At around 12:47 p.m., Boardman fire, police and ambulance services, as well as the Morrow County Sheriff's Office, responded to an accident at the potato processing plant at the Port of Morrow. According to Boardman Fire Chief Marc Rogelstad, a contract worker was welding inside a waste tank when an explosion buried him in mud and metal debris.

Morrow County Undersheriff Steve Myren said a witness reported a flash and a bang.

Shortly after the incident, Zeiler said he had very little information to share. Boardman city officials reported staff from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration would conduct an investigation. They went on to point out initial efforts had been focused on retrieval of the body.

To assist in the effort to retrieve the man, local firefighters had called in a small confined space rescue team from Portland General Electric, which recovered the body a little after 8 p.m.

The tight space in which the man was working made it difficult to retrieve him, officials said.

"There are rules and regulations on what kind of team we needed to get him out," Myren said Monday afternoon. "We had some difficulty getting the resources we needed."

Con Agra Lamb-Weston officials would not comment on the incident. Burns Mortuary workers removed the man's body from the site and Munselle-Rhodes Funeral Home in Milton-Freewater is handling the arrangements.

A similar accident happened last October when a man was welding inside a tanker at Woodpecker Truck & Equipment near Pendleton. Witnesses heard an explosion and saw flames erupting from the tank and, like at Con Agra Lamb-Weston, emergency personnel could not reach the man trapped inside. The body of the Umatilla man involved in the Pendleton-area incident was retrieved hours later after an OSHA investigator examined the scene.

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