The man killed in Tuesday’s industrial accident at DAK Americas died from asphyxia with a secondary cause being the inhalation of a foreign substance, Calhoun County Coroner Donnie Porth said Wednesday.
Alton Zeigler, 63, of Columbia died Tuesday as he and other members of his maintenance crew were working on a large industrial pump used for transferring liquid, molten polymers. The polymer line was down for annual maintenance.
Porth said the polymers escaped and came in contact with the three victims.
Two others were injured and were transferred to the Augusta Burn Center with serious injuries. Their conditions are unknown.
DAK Americas spokesman Ricky Lane said the facility has an excellent safety rating.
"This is a significantly tragic accident and has really caught this industry off guard. We have never had anything of this nature,” he said.
Lane said DAK's thoughts and prayers are with the employees impacted by the incident.
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"We have an excellent workforce here," he said. “These employees are like family members."
Zeigler had worked at the plant for more than 20 years, Lane said.
The polymer line involved in the accident had been down for maintenance. Lane said the line will continue to remain down while the rest of the plant will continue to operate.
DAK purchased Carolina Eastman’s polyethylene terephthalate-manufacturing operations in Calhoun County in 2011. PET is a plastic used in drink bottles and other packaging.
Lane said the operation of the plant and the polymer lines is “highly technical.”
"We produce plastic materials for consumer goods," Lane said. "We don't make any products on-site, but we provide the raw materials."
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control was informed that the incident occurred. The release was contained within a building and there was no environmental impact.
The S.C. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the incident. Investigations generally take about eight weeks to complete.
Lane said DAK Americas is also investigating the incident.
"We hope to have further information available in the future," Lane said.