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1 Dead, 2 Seriously Hurt In Accident At Biotechnology Plant

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LOS ANGELES (AP) —Men cleaning a blood storage tank at a biotechnology plant were overcome by toxic fumes early Friday, killing one and leaving the others in critical condition, authorities said.

Firefighters called to the Baxter International Inc. plant in Atwater Village shortly before 4 a.m. found a man lying near a large cylindrical tank. He wasn’t breathing and had no pulse, but cardiopulmonary resuscitation restored his heartbeat, Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said.

Two other men were pulled unconscious from the 4-foot-tall, 5-foot-wide tank, Humphrey said. They apparently climbed in through a 2-foot-diameter opening in the top, he said.

All three men were taken to hospitals in critical condition and one later died, Humphrey said. He did not immediately know whether it was the man who had been revived.

The worker who was found outside the tank had called 911 and tried to rescue his co-workers before he was overcome, Moore told the Los Angeles Times.

Humphrey said he could not confirm those details, but he said firefighters did detect the presence of ethanol. A hazardous material team was sent to the scene, he said.

Investigators from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as Cal-OSHA, were sent to determine whether the plant was complying with health and safety laws, Humphrey said.

A call to a Baxter spokeswoman seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Baxter, based in Deerfield, Ill., is a global bioscience corporation that makes everything from vaccines to dialysis materials. Its plasma-derived products include clotting factor for hemophiliacs and treatments for immune system deficiencies, burns and shock, according to its website.

The Atwater Village plant had two other accidents that caused injuries since 2002 and was fined $185 in 2005 for a minor health and safety violation but it generally has a good safety record, said Krisann Chasarik, a spokeswoman for Cal-OSHA.

“We don’t have … reason to believe that there are any type of chronic safety issues there,” Chasarik said.

In a 2002 accident, a woman was scalded when a hose on top of a large tank she was cleaning came loose and splashed her with hot water. She was treated at a hospital, Chasarik said.

“We found no health or safety violations,” Chasarik said.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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