5 agencies investigate ammonia exposure death in Kamloops

·2 min read
A worker died following an ammonia leak at the Arctic Glacier Ice facility in Kamloops. (Google streetview - image credit)
A worker died following an ammonia leak at the Arctic Glacier Ice facility in Kamloops. (Google streetview - image credit)

At least five agencies are involved in investigations into the ammonia leak that killed a worker at the Arctic Glacier Ice plant in Kamloops on Thursday.

According to an RCMP spokesperson, the Tk'emlúps Rural RCMP, which has jurisdiction in the area where the death occurred, is leading the police investigation with assistance from the B.C. RCMP Southeast division.

WorkSafeBC, Technical Safety B.C. and the B.C. Coroners Service are also running parallel investigations.

The person who died is believed to be a man in his 60s. Two more people were transported to hospital by emergency crews and later released, while several others were assessed on the scene.

A worker in the area reported hearing a "pop" late Thursday morning, right before seeing a 30-metre-high plume rise from the Arctic Glacier Ice facility, located in Mount Paul Industrial Park.

Kamloops Deputy Fire Chief Ryan Cail told reporters that a large amount of ammonia was released when a valve on a tank or bottle failed in some way.

Liquid industrial ammonia rapidly absorbs heat as it evaporates into gas, making it useful in freezing and refrigeration applications. But if it escapes in high enough concentrations, it can instantly freeze human tissue — including lung tissue if inhaled — killing someone in seconds.

In a statement, Arctic Glacier said it was devastated by the "unexpected accident" and is "working co-operatively with all regulatory authorities and other workplace parties involved in the matter."

Technical Safety B.C. confirmed that the ammonia refrigeration technology used at the Kamloops Arctic Glacier Ice facility falls under its jurisdiction for regulation.

It said safety officers and an investigations team from the agency are examining the equipment to try and determine how it failed.

In a statement, WorkSafeBC said the purpose of its investigation "is to identify the cause of the incident, including any contributing factors, so that similar incidents can be prevented from happening in the future."

In 2017, three men in Fernie, B.C. died of ammonia exposure while working on the ice-making plant at the town's skating rink.

A WorkSafeBC investigation found an aging refrigeration system and years of unheeded warnings led to the tragedy.

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