January 16, 1998 in City

State Agency Investigates Fatal Leak Of Ammonia Gas

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The state Department of Labor and Industries is investigating an ammonia gas accident that left one man dead and four other people hospitalized.

Michael Grzechowiaki, 46, died after being rescued by firefighters from the gas-filled basement of the Capital Tavern at 5015 N. Market on Wednesday afternoon.

Grzechowiaki and Erhling Hilde were working on a refrigeration system when a cylinder containing the gas released its contents, said Rich Kness, medical services officer with the Spokane Fire Department.

Hilde was able to escape on his own but was hospitalized at Holy Family Hospital. He was held Wednesday night for observation and released.

Firefighters Tony Serquina and David Batty entered the basement, each wearing a breathing apparatus, and rescued Grzechowiaki but suffered minor burns around their wrists and necks. After being hospitalized briefly, both went back to work.

Mary Weir, an emergency medical technician with American Medical Response ambulance service, also was hospitalized briefly.

The owner of the tavern, Jerry Van Bavel, said he doesn’t know what Hilde and Grzechowiaki were doing in the basement. He neither owns the building nor the equipment in the basement, Van Bavel said.

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WHAT’S NEXT?

The Department of Labor and Industries has six months to file a report on the accident. The state agency won’t comment on the investigation until it is complete.

This sidebar appeared with the story: WHAT’S NEXT? The Department of Labor and Industries has six months to file a report on the accident. The state agency won’t comment on the investigation until it is complete.


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