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Poisonous Fumes Kill One, Injure 38 at Paper Mill

July 24, 1991

VERNON, Calif. (AP) _ A poisonous gas leak at a paper mill Tuesday killed one person and injured 38 others, one critically, authorities said.

The plant employee who died had entered an 8-foot-deep tank through a hatch on the basement floor of the Domtar Gypsum mill, said Vernon Fire Battalion Chief Arnold DeBoer. The tank contained recycled water that apparently mixed with toxic hydrogen sulfide, DeBoer said.

Two other men who tried to rescue the employee also were felled by the fumes, he said.

Hydrogen sulfide is used in the processing of paper. If inhaled, it prevents the blood from carrying oxygen, said Harvey Kern, spokesman for County-USC Medical Center, where 31 of the injured were taken.

One of the injured was in critical condition and being transferred to another hospital for treatment in a hyperbaric chamber to force oxygen into his bloodstream, Kern said.

The other 30 - including five Los Angeles County firefighters - were treated and released, said Pat Marek of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Malachi Nash, 53, of Compton, was dead on arrival at White Memorial Medical Center, hospital spokesman Mark Newmyer said. Six firefighters and paramedics were treated there and released, while another mill worker was in fair condition.

The cause of the accident was under investigation. Domtar Gypsum managers didn’t return telephone calls.

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