Snow, rain blamed for roof collapse that injured 11 - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Snow, rain blamed for roof collapse that injured 11

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Investigators say snow and rain may be to blame for a roof collapse that left 11 people hurt on Thursday afternoon.

It happened at Cloverleaf Cold Storage on Independence Drive near US 24 in Napoleon. The roof collapse in the loading dock area also broke several pipes causing an ammonia leak.

Three of the eleven people were transported to Henry County hospital with minor injuries. They have all been treated and released. The ammonia leak has been contained.

Chief Robert Bennett of the Napoleon Fire Department believes the heavy snow pack combined with Thursday's rain caused the collapse of the roof over the loading dock at the storage facility.

"It was just too heavy," says Chief Bennett. "The roof system just couldn't support their weight anymore."

40 people were inside the building when it collapsed. Everyone evacuated before fire crews arrived.

"I didn't know if I was going to make it out alive or not.  I was scared," says Misty Heiman, who works at Cloverleaf Cold Storage and was injured when the roof collapsed. "I was unloading a truck on the dock where it collapsed. I just heard some cracking noises and looked up and it was coming down. It took my hard hat off me and it knocked me on the ground as I made it through a doorway. I just got back up and kept running because I didn't know if it was going to keep falling down or the ammonia was blowing or what, but we all made it out OK."

The facility is essentially a huge refrigerator. The fire chief says the company, a supplier for Campbell's Soup, stores raw materials and farmers produce for the meat industry.

When the roof collapsed, it broke pipes, releasing ammonia which is used to keep things cold.

The chief says it caused a 400-yard plume of the gas, forcing crews to close roads here at the industrial park where Routes 6 and 24 meet.

The plume quickly dissipated thanks to a heavy wind from the east.

"Ammonia is a serious product," says Chief Bennett. "Not only is it an asphyxiant, it's also a combustible gas in the right quantity. So not only could we have lost people due to inhalation problems, but also we could've had a significant fire from the ammonia. We've averted all of that."

The fire chief isn't allowing any workers back in the building until a structural analysis is done to make sure there won't be any further collapses.

OSHA is investigating what happened.

Company leaders brought in an environmental contractor to clean-up the damage.

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