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Fumes May Have Killed Puerto Ricans

November 16, 1998

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ Two Puerto Rican workers who died after falling into a pharmaceutical mixing tank apparently were overcome by fumes from a valve that should have been shut, police said Monday.

The deaths Saturday at the Pharmacia & Upjohn Inc. plant in the northern town of Arecibomay may have been caused by ``human error,″ homicide investigator Melvin Soberal said. Police believe nitrogen fumes were leaking from the valve.

Officials from the Bridgewater, N.J.-based company were to arrive in Puerto Rico on Monday, Pharmacia & Upjohn spokesman Luis Vazquez said.

Carlos Nunez, 31, and Joel Gabriel, 22, had been working outside the hermetically sealed tank that is used to make an antibiotic.

Vazquez said investigators believe one of the workers first fell into the 5-foot-deep by 8-foot-wide tank, and the other fell in trying to help him.

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