A fourth person has died from injuries sustained from the explosion at a ConAgra food processing plant last summer.
Curtis Ray Poppe was severely burned following the blast at the North Carolina facility on 9 June and had been a patient at a burns centre since the accident. He was working for Energy Systems Analysts and involved in the installation of an industrial-scale, gas-fired water heater that is suspected of triggering the explosion.
Mr Poppe is the first fatality who was not employed by ConAgra. The other three, Barbara McLean Spears, Lewis Junior Watson, and Rachel Poston-Pulley, were all found in the 24 hours following the incident, which also injured dozens.
A ConAgra spokesman told FoodProductionDaily.com: "We were saddened to hear this news, and ConAgra Foods’ offers our deepest sympathies to Mr. Poppe's family and friends."
The blast caused extensive damage to the 500,000 square metre plant in Garner that employs 900 workers and produces Slim Jim meats. The plant reopened its food processing operations in August, although its packaging section remains closed until further notice.
The US Chemical Safety Board said they suspected the explosion was triggered while contractors were installing a water heater. Workmen likely vented natural gas inside the building’s pump room before while purging a gas line, said the body in statement on June 18. A report on the incident by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is due to be released before the end of the year.