MAXTON — The N.C. Department of Labor is investigating a workplace accident at the Campbell Soup Company that left one man dead and another man injured.
Alex Radford, 59, of Laurinburg, died Sunday when a Dumpster fell on top of him while he was working at the plant, according to information from the Robeson County Sheriff’s office. He had worked at the plant since the early 1980s.
Campbell Soup says it is the first fatality at the plant since it opened in 1979. The second person is expected to fully recover.
“I can confirm that the NCDOL, Occupational Safety and Health Division was alerted of this incident and is investigating to determine exactly what happened,” said Dolores Quesenberry, director of Communications for the Labor Department.
The division is investigating to determine whether or not any occupational safety and health standards were violated, which is routine anytime a workplace accident occurs, Quesenberry said.
James Patterson, of Maxton, was seriously injured when he attempted to help Radford and became pinned under the Dumpster.
Deputies responded to a 10:35 a.m. call about a person trapped underneath a large metal trash bin at 2120 N.C. 71 in Maxton, Sheriff Kenneth Sealey said Monday. When first responders arrived they found Patterson pinned underneath the Dumpster. Emergency Medical Services, Lumberton Rescue and deputies worked together to free Patterson, who was taken to McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence, S.C., for treatment.
“I hate that this happened,” Sealey said. “I am saddened to hear, Mr. Radford was an employee at the plant for 35 years, he went to work and never made it back home. My heart goes out to his family. I am happy to hear that Mr. Patterson will be OK.”
The incident happened about 10:15 a.m. on Sunday, Quesenberry said. According to information received by the Labor Department, an employee was operating a forklift that was carrying a Dumpster. The employee got off of the forklift and the Dumpster fell off the forks onto the forklift operator. The employee was pronounced dead at the scene at 11:19 a.m.
The Labor Department didn’t release the name of the person killed.
The Campbell Soup Company also is working with law enforcement to determine what happened, said Megan Haney, a Campbell Soup spokesperson.
“We are deeply saddened by what happened at our Maxton plant Sunday morning. We send our heartfelt condolences to Mr. Radford’s family and loved ones,” Haney said. “He was a dedicated Campbell employee for over 35 years and he will be missed.”
Patterson worked as a subcontractor for the Maxton plant.
“James Patterson, a Sodexo waste dock operator, was injured during the incident, but we expect he will have a full recovery,” Haney said. “We are working with authorities on the investigation.”
An Occupational Safety and Health investigator will collect physical evidence and take photographs at the accident scene and interview employees, witnesses and management officials about the accident to determine its cause, Quesenberry said.
There will be a review of safety training records to verify that forklift operators were trained in safe vehicle operation, Quesenberry said. The equipment involved in the accident will be inspected.
If any violations of safety and health standards are found, citations will be issued, Quesenberry said.
“Investigation typically take three to four months to complete,” she said. “Depending on the complexity of the case it could take up to six months.”
The Maxton plant opened as a distribution center in 1979, Haney said. Production began in 1982, and the plant now employs 860 people, making it one of the largest private employers in Robeson County.
“This incident was the first fatality at the Maxton plant,” Haney said. “The Maxton plant has received the Department of Labor Gold Award for 21 consecutive years.”
Reach Annick Joseph by calling 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected]