NTSB joins investigation into deadly ammonia leak - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

NTSB joins investigation into deadly ammonia leak

Jacqueline Patrice Ginyard (Source: Lexington County Coroner's Office) Jacqueline Patrice Ginyard (Source: Lexington County Coroner's Office)

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

SWANSEA, SC (WIS) - Federal officials have taken over the investigation of an ammonia leak at a South Carolina chemical warehouse that killed a passing motorist.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Crystal Thomas said Thursday it could take months to figure out what caused a 4 to 6-inch rupture in a hose used to move the chemical from a tanker to a storage tank at a Tanner Industries distribution facility 25 miles south of Columbia.

"Our goal in conducting this investigation is to learn how the accident occurred and to ultimately issue safety recommendations that may prevent similiar accidents from occuring in the future," said Thomas.

Thomas says the hose is supposed to be visually inspected each time it is used and physically inspected annually. She says the company has promised to share its inspection records.

Employees returned to work at Tanner Industries Thursday, the day after the deadly leak.

The ammonia gushed from what DHEC called a "fist-sized" hole in a line being used to transfer the liquid from a truck to a tank.

Authorities say the incident happened Wednesday about 8am.

The cloud from the leak was so strong that it killed 38-year-old Jacqueline Patrice Ginyard of Wagener as she drove through it.

Witnesses say as Ginyard drove into the thick plume of ammonia, her car stalled. When she tried to get out and run, she didn't make it.

The vapor also sent five plant workers and two outsiders to the hospital.

What caused that hole remained undetermined Thursday. Meanwhile, at least one family living near the plant now has new safety concerns.

Boo the dog wasn't feeling so good Thursday.

"She looks a little subdued. She's usually going nuts if there's people out here," says Chuck Lubic, who lives with the purebred boxer on Savannah Highway in Swansea, less than a quarter mile from Tanner Industries.

Lubic says Boo was outside when the phone started ringing Wednesday morning. Neighbors warned him about the white cloud forming over the highway near his house.

"There was no sun or anything out, so you know I figured it was maybe a little fog," Lubic says. "And I got another phone call after I hung up with that person, got another call, same thing. Get out of there, man. There's something going on. It was my neighbor."

"I thought they were just joking around with me," said Lubic. "Kidding around. Apparently they weren't. It was serious."

By then, Lubic could smell the ammonia. He grabbed Boo, who'd already vomited once, and fled in his pickup truck.

Lubic got out just in time, as the cloud blanketed part of the roadway. Others also fled the scene, but not everyone made it.

Driving past the plant, 38-year-old Jacqueline Ginyard plowed into the vapor and died on the roadside.

If damage to the trees and other plant life is any indication, it looks like most of the cloud drifted due east across the roadway and into a wooded area. That is a good thing, because that means it moved away from homes and at least one other major business.

Just north of Tanner is the Nucor Building Systems plant, with about a hundred workers there.

The vet says Boo should be OK in a day or two, but her owner now has new safety questions about the operations at Tanner.

"I've got two children," said Lubic. "I've got a two-year-old and a seven-year-old. And I'll tell you what, I don't like it. It's a big concern now. They need to put sirens up. Something."

DHEC says the leak was the result of a fist-sized hole in a hose or line being used to transfer liquid ammonia from a tanker truck.
We don't know yet what caused that hole, but we should have some new information at around 7:30pm from the NTSB when they hold a news conference in Columbia.

Tanner Industries, Werner Transportation and the US Chemical Safety Board have also been investigating the leak.

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