MOUNT JACKSON — A 53-year-old employee of Bowman Andros Products died Friday after entering a cold-storage room without the proper equipment, according to the Shenandoah County Fire Marshal’s Office.
Russell Conard, of Wardensville, West Virginia, was pronounced dead at Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, Fire Marshal David Ferguson said by phone interview.
The report came in at 9:37 a.m., said Shannon Walters, service assistant with the Shenandoah County Fire & Rescue Department.
Another employee entered the cold-storage room after Conard became unresponsive and attempted to help him but was unable to stay because of the lack of oxygen in the room, Ferguson said.
Because of the difficulty getting through the doorway to the room, contact wasn’t made with Conard until 9:53 p.m., Ferguson said. It took help from employees at the facility to get the door open by using a forklift, Ferguson said.
Conard was under cardiac arrest, Ferguson said, and treatment, including CPR, was immediately given. He was taken to Shenandoah Memorial where he was pronounced dead.
Bowman Andros, a family-owned, private company headquartered in France, is known as a global leader in fruit processing, frozen desserts, dairy and confectionery, according to it website.
The Mount Jackson facility is one of more than 30 factories the company has worldwide.
A message left with the company was not immediately returned.
Employees at the business were shaken up by the incident, said Ferguson, who was still at the scene around 4:30 p.m.
Cold rooms are created by taking most of the oxygen out of a room and filling it with nitrogen. This makes the room extra cold to keep products fresh before they are delivered.
Because of quick-thinking by other employees to not automatically go into the room to help Conard, further loss of life was prevented, Ferguson said.
The Fire Marshal’s office, as well as the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Mount Jackson Police Department are investigating if there were any workplace infractions, or if any criminal or civil wrongdoing lead to the incident, Ferguson said.
The investigation is also looking at how to prevent the incident from happening again, Ferguson said.
The chief of the Conicville Fire Department works at the facility and responded immediately, Ferguson said. EMS crews from Conicville were the first to arrive, Walters said.
Other responding units included the Woodstock Rescue Squad, Orkney Fire & Rescue, Edinburg Fire Department, Conicville Fire Department, New Market Fire Department, and Mtount Jackson Rescue and Fire Department, Walters said.