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Investigation continues into fatal ammonia leak

The CF Industries distribution facility in Rosemount is back up and running following a fatal accident Nov. 16. The trucking terminal, where anhydrous ammonia is loaded into semi-trucks, resumed operations Thursday after voluntarily shutting down for several days.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration continues to investigate the incident, which killed 31-year-old Robert Shue of Kingfisher, Okla., and critically injured Roy Thomas Taylor, 56, of Moore, Okla.

James Honerman, a spokesman for Minnesota OSHA, said two investigators were on the scene Nov. 16 and 17 assessing the scene and talking with witnesses.

Still early in the investigation Honerman said the investigators are looking at all possibilities including whether the men were properly trained by their employer and whether they were following procedures.

Employees of High Pressure Transports, a company in Kingfisher, the two men were filling their trunks with anhydrous ammonia, a liquid fertilizer, when some of the deadly gas leaked from Shue's truck.

Terry Huch, a spokesman with CF Industries, said it appears Shue noticed a connection problem and tried to fix it. At some point, Taylor went over to help. The line between the loading center and the truck broke, causing the leak. A CF Industries employee witnessed the incident and immediately shut down the loading station, preventing any more gas from escaping.

A Dakota County Sheriff's deputy, a Rosemount Police officer and another trucker on scene pulled Taylor away from the truck. Shue died at the the scene.

Taylor was decontaminated and sent to Region's Hospital where he continues to receive care. The two officers, Matt Schuster and Scott Sandell, were treated for exposure at Region's and released the same day.

In addition to OSHA, Huch said the CF is conducting its own internal investigation.

"Safety is always the company's highest priority," said Huch. "We went 43 years without a lost time accident."

Honerman said the Rosemount facility has had no other incidents in the past five years. Additionally he said CF Industries as a company has a good safety record and has been cooperative.

Honerman didn't have any information regarding the trucking company.

There is no timeline for results from the investigation. Honerman said especially when a death is involved investigations can take time.

"It's too early to tell at this point to imply anything," Honerman said.

CF Industries is one of the largest fertilizer producers in North America. The company has facilities all over North America including the rural Rosemount location at 13040 Pine Bend Trail.

The company owns 370 acres in Rosemount along the Mississipi River. The Pine Bend Ammonia Terminal, as it is known, receives ammonia via barge on the river and rail on the Union Pacific line. It ships ammonia to customers by truck, according to the company's web site.