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One person dead after ammonia leak at ice-making business in Kamloops, B.C.

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — An employee at an ice-making business in Kamloops, B.C., has died of exposure to ammonia gas, the city's deputy fire chief said.

Ryan Cail said the man was believed to be in his 60s. The facility was closed for the rest of the day following the incident on Thursday morning.

"There was a malfunction with an ammonia bottle," Cail said. "The valve was dislodged, broke or malfunctioned. We're not aware of how it was discharged, but a large amount of ammonia was released."

Two other employees managed to escape the business, he said.

"The details of how this specific individual was unable to get out are unknown" and will be under investigation, he said. 

The ice-making company could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mike Farnworth, the deputy premier and minister of public safety, issued a statement saying workers and their families should not have to worry about their safety when they're on the job. 

"Tragedies such as this strengthen our resolve to ensure everyone in B.C. can enjoy a safe workplace," he said. "We send our deepest condolences to the grieving family and friends of the deceased individual. Our hearts are with them."

The City of Kamloops said earlier Thursday that one person had died in hospital following an ammonia leak at an industrial park. 

A spokeswoman with BC Emergency Health Services said one person had been taken to hospital in critical condition and two others were there in stable condition.

Five paramedic crews and two supervisors responded to a call at about 10:30 a.m., she said.

Interior Health said a total of four patients had been released from hospital after being assessed or treated.

The city said in a written statement that the RCMP and firefighters responded to the scene and several businesses were evacuated.

Police and WorkSafeBC were investigating how the ammonia was released, and the coroners service has also launched an investigation, the city said.

WorkSafeBC says on its website that the accidental release of ammonia during transportation, storage or use may put employees at risk if they inhale the colourless gas.

Ammonia is used in refrigeration systems, power generation and manufacturing.

"Public safety is our top priority," the city said in the statement. "The scene is now stable and the evacuated business and other citizens can go about their business in the area."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

The Canadian Press