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Fumes Sicken Workers Warehouse Forklifts Send 100 Fruit Packers To The Hospital

About 100 workers at a fruit-packing warehouse were taken to hospitals Friday evening for treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning and symptoms including headaches and nausea, authorities said.

None of the illnesses was believed to be life-threatening and most patients were treated and released, said Howard Gamble, administrator at Okanogan-Douglas District Hospital in Brewster.

Five workers from Brewster Heights Packing Co. were flown to hospitals in Seattle and Spokane for treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning, he said.

Another two were being treated at nearby Wells Dam in a hyperbaric chamber used to increase oxygen levels in blood. The dam uses the chamber to treat divers who work at the facility.

About 70 were brought to the rural hospital by ambulance, and another 30 came on their own, Gamble said.

All but about 25 workers had been treated and released by 10:30 p.m., Gamble said, and only a handful were expected to be kept overnight.

“It’s kind of a scary thing at the start, but once you start pumping oxygen into them, they brighten up,” he said.

Authorities were unsure what went wrong at the north-central Washington plant.

Washington State Patrol Lt. Ken Irwin and Ed Pariseau, the plant’s general manager, said workers may have been sickened by exhaust fumes from forklifts that were operating in the warehouse at the time that workers began complaining of feeling ill.

Pariseau knew of no other sources of carbon monoxide in the warehouse, where some 100 workers were busy packing cherries and apples at the time of the 5:20 p.m. accident.

“There’s a lot of air exchange in the room,” Pariseau said. “I can’t think what else it would be other than the forklifts.”



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