3 Workers Killed in Explosion at Wisconsin Paper Milll

July 31, 2008

A storage tank explosion at a northern Wisconsin paper mill Tuesday killed three workers and injured a fourth, the company that owns the mill said.

Packaging Corp. of America said in a news release that the three workers were fatally injured when a tank used to store recycled fiber exploded while they were performing maintenance on top of it.

The injured worker was standing on a platform at a lower level of the tank when it exploded, the company said. The worker’s condition was not immediately released.

The cause of the explosion was not known and is under investigation, the company said.

Company spokesman Ron Zimmerman said up to 10 people were working in the area when the explosion happened in what he described as “a storage tank for pulp.” No fire resulted from the explosion, he said.

Identities of the victims were not being released Tuesday night, Zimmerman said.

Capt. Mike Drury of the nearby Merrill Fire Department said his rescue crew was called to help free the employees about 1:40 p.m. but was called off before it arrived. Emergency workers on the scene used a crane to rescue them, he said.

“There was an explosion and a couple of employees were trapped for a short period of time,” Drury said.

Packaging Corp. of America, which makes containerboard and corrugated packaging products, operates four paper mills and 67 corrugated product plants in 26 U.S. states. According to the Lake Forest, Illinois-based company’s Web site, it employs 8,350 people nationwide and posted sales of $2.3 billion last year.

The Tomahawk mill has three semi-chemical corrugating machines and produces more than 572 million tons annually, the company said.


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