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1 dead after ammonia leak in Kamloops, B.C., industrial park

One person is dead following an ammonia leak at Arctic Glacier, an ice-making business in Kamloops, B.C., on Thursday morning.

The victim was a contractor hired to do maintenance work at the business, according to Kamloops assistant chief of operations Darryl Cooper.

He said the news was upsetting for the community.

"I know the firefighting community was affected by it quite strongly. Not a good day when we can't affect a rescue to save somebody,” Cooper said.

Two other workers managed to escape the scene.

Deputy fire chief Ryan Cail said the incident appears to have been caused by a "malfunction with an ammonia bottle."

"The valve was dislodged, broke or malfunctioned. We're not aware of how it was discharged, but a large amount of ammonia was released," Cail said.

In a statement, Arctic Glacier described what happened as an "unexpected accident," and said the tragedy has left staff devastated.

"Artic Glacier is working co-operatively with all regulatory authorities and other workplace parties involved in the matter," the company said. "We would like to thank first responders for their efforts in responding expeditiously to the incident." 

B.C. Emergency Health Services told CTV News paramedics transported three patients to hospital, one of whom was in critical condition. Others were assessed at the scene.

The City of Kamloops later confirmed one patient died at Royal Inland Hospital.

Officials said the leak was discovered at 790 East Sarcee St., in the Mount Paul Industrial Park, forcing the temporary evacuation of a number of nearby businesses.

The evacuations have since been lifted and the public has been allowed to return to the area.

WorkSafeBC said a team of occupational health and safety officers has been deployed to Kamloops to launch an investigation, but could not provide any further details.

Kamloops RCMP and the B.C. Coroners Service are also investigating.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth addressed the incident in a statement, offering "deepest condolences to the grieving family and friends of the deceased individual."

"Our hearts are with them," Farnworth said.

"Workers and their families should not have to worry about their safety and well-being when they are on the job. Tragedies such as this strengthen our resolve to ensure everyone in B.C. can enjoy a safe workplace." 

Ammonia is commonly found in refrigeration systems, fertilizers and cleaning products, and high concentrations can be fatal "within a few breaths," according to WorkSafeBC.

Back in 2017, an ammonia leak in the small community of Fernie resulted in tragedy, claiming the lives of three men at the local hockey arena.

An investigative report later released by Technical Safety BC blamed the leak on an aging ice-chilling system that was well past its service life, and warned of increased reports of ammonia-related incidents in the refrigeration industry.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Tahmina Aziz and The Canadian Press Top Stories

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