LEXINGTON — Tyson Fresh Meats evacuated its beef packing plant in Lexington late Tuesday morning when there was a report of an ammonia leak.
A rescue unit was paged at 11:27 a.m. for a 45-year-old female who had reportedly passed out, but was breathing. The dispatcher said it was uncertain if her condition was due to the leak.
Lexington Police Department Captain Paul Schwarz said the LPD responded to help out the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office because when the call came there were no deputies nearby. The Tyson plant is not within the city limits.
Prior to the rescue call, Tyson had reported an ammonia leak. Schwarz said he believed the leak came during some maintenance. “It was contained quickly. They cleared the building to be safe,” he said.
Schwarz said law enforcement was only on site for a short time. “I don’t think they even responded,” he said of the sheriff’s office. “It was contained quite quickly.”
In total, the Lexington Volunteer Fire Department made at least three runs to the hospital and transported five patients for possible exposure, said Schwarz.
About an hour after the first rescue call, the hospital advised those on the scene not to transfer any more patients. Instead Lexington Regional Health Center sent staff to Tyson to conduct triage there.
LeAnn Muegerl, LRHC director of health information management and privacy officer, said LRHC treated a total of twenty patients within a three hour window. She said one patient was transferred in critical condition and two patients were admitted to LRHC for further observation and were in stable condition as of Tuesday evening. The rest of the patients were treated and released.
“Lexington Regional Health Care staff presented to the Tyson plant to assist with patient care after patient care at the hospital had been established,” said Muegerl.
Tyson was contacted, but workers within the plant declined to comment and referred questions to a corporate spokesperson. There was no answer when a call was made to corporate headquarters.
A rescue unit was paged to respond to Tyson at 5:25 p.m. Tuesday for two subjects reference the ammonia leak earlier in the day. No further information is known at this time.