Company faces criminal charge in 2009 ammonia leak that killed woman

Published: Feb. 7, 2013 at 3:39 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2013 at 3:52 PM EST
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A cloud of ammonia blanketed US 321 near Swansea on July 15, 2009.
A cloud of ammonia blanketed US 321 near Swansea on July 15, 2009.
Jacqueline Patrice Ginyard
Jacqueline Patrice Ginyard
Emergency crews near the scene of the leak.
Emergency crews near the scene of the leak.

LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) - A Georgia transportation company faces a fine of up to $500,000 for its role in a deadly chemical leak that killed a Midlands woman in 2009.

A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted Werner Transportation Services, Inc. of Gainesville, Georgia for a criminal violation of the U.S. Clean Air Act.

The company is accused of negligently releasing into the ambient air a hazardous air pollutant and an extremely hazardous substances, that is, anhydrous ammonia, and negligently placed another person in imminent danger of death and serious bodily injury," according to a filing in U.S. District Court.

In July, 2009, a 4 to 6-inch rupture in a hose used to move chemicals from a tanker to a storage tank at Tanner Industries on U.S. 321 near Swansea forced approximately 10,000 pounds of ammonia into the air forming a large cloud which blanketed the area near the plant.

38-year-old Jacqueline Ginyard of Wagener was on her way to work early that morning when she came upon the ominous cloud.

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. Deputies later found her body near her car.

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

Months later, the state Office of Occupational Safety and Health issued nine safety violations against Werner Transportation and Tanner Industries.

Authorities with OSHA conducted an inspection of Tanner Industries and Werner Transportation Services and said seven of those violations were serious.

Among those serious violations, OSHA report cited Tanner for not having an alarm system for employees, not providing proper training for using hazardous materials and not using a proper hose for the ammonia.

Werner Transportation Services faced four separate citations. Three of them were centered on the proper use of a respirator. The fourth also had to do with a hose used for the ammonia.

Tanner was fined more than $23,000 for those violations. Werner was fined over $5,000.

The federal case involving Werner Transportation is in its early stages. The company faces a fine of up to $500,000 if found guilty of the misdemeanor charge.

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