Carroll Chairman issues statement on Va. Produce incident

April 3, 2014

Carroll County Board of Supervisors’ Chairman David Hutchins submitted a Letter to the Editor on Thursday afternoon, commending everyone who responded to the incident at Virginia Produce on Tuesday that hospitalized more than 50 people. Hutchins’ statement also provides a few updates to the situation.

The following is Hutchins’ letter:

As everyone may be aware, approximately 76 people were transported to hospitals in Galax, Mt. Airy, N.C., and Wytheville as a result of “something” that happened at Virginia Produce in Hillsville on Tuesday. However, the “something” has not been identified as of yet. It seems as if everyone involved was OK after being checked out and treated at the various hospitals.

The IDC workers were on break and were not involved in the situation, however, the IDC workers were transported just to make sure there was nothing wrong with them also. The IDC workers totaled nearly half of the total transported.

Investigations continue from various local, state and federal agencies. However it seems as if the cause is somewhat a mystery. The refrigeration system was checked and has electronic monitoring that records pressures every three minutes. There were no pressure irregularities in the cooling system. So it was determined that the cooling units were not at fault. There is no natural gas hooked to the building, so we know that natural gas was not the problem. Emergency Services monitored for propane leaks and that was not the problem as well. Officials are looking at carbon monoxide poisoning as a possible cause of the issue.

Mr. Douglas Coordes, who was on site from OSHA said that they may never know the real cause, however many possibilities had been eliminated.

VA Produce called 911 and Carroll County Fire and Rescue (CCFR) responded along with many volunteer Fire Departments and Rescue Squads from Carroll County and other localities. Sheriff J.B. Gardner and his Deputies were of great assistance also. Emergency Services officials stayed on site until Wednesday morning to monitor the air quality.

The event was coordinated by Carroll Emergency Services Director Mike Mock and nothing but complements have come in as to how Mr. Mock and his crew handled the situation.

Sheriff J.B. Gardner said, “CCFR had the situation under full control by the time we arrived and I was impressed”!

The regional hazmat crew in Radford came to assist with air monitoring and the Galax-Grayson Ambulance Service was on standby to run calls for CCFR if necessary. The City of Galax provided assistance along with Twin County Regional Hospital that did a fantastic job during a difficult time.

The VA Department of Agriculture cleared the product VA Produce was packing at the time of the incident and said they did not see any issues at all. The bottom line seems to be that there was an obvious problem, however no one has figured out the exact reason.

Carroll County wishes to thank everyone who assisted for the excellent support, professionalism and timely response in a time of need. It is obvious that everyone working together certainly made a huge difference in this time of near-tragedy.

Thanks for a job well done,

David Hutchins

Chairman- Board of Supervisors

County of Carroll