MOUNT JACKSON — An investigation into the death of a Bowman Andros employee at the company's fruit product processing plant on Friday is expected to last several weeks.

Russell Edward Conard, 53, of Wardensville, West Virginia, was found not wearing proper equipment and unresponsive in an oxygen-depleted room used for storing food products at the facility, Shenandoah County Fire Marshal David Ferguson said Friday.

A coworker who attempted to revive him called first responders around 9:37 a.m., Ferguson said. EMS crews transported Conard to Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Ferguson said by phone Monday that an "in-depth, thorough" investigation is being conducted by the Fire Marshal's Office, the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Mount Jackson Police Department to see if the death was the result of criminal or civil wrongdoing.

He said the goal of the investigation — which will include interviews with current and past employees — is to discover what happened and prevent it from recurring. The investigation will review how employees could access the oxygen-depleted room and whether that room adheres to safety standards.

Conard's autopsy report should be completed in a few days, and Ferguson said there may be an update on the investigation later this week.

Bowman Andros did not respond to phone messages seeking a comment. Ferguson said the company has cooperated with the investigation and provided grief counselors for employees at the facility.

Ferguson said it was clear that Conard "was a very liked individual," and the plant has a family-oriented atmosphere.

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