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Rich Products nears restart of production in Fort Erie

Rich Products hopes to restart production at its Fort Erie plant Sunday night, following a fatal accident last Monday.

Production at the frozen-dough products plant was suspended after an ammonia leak triggered an evacuation. A contractor who was working inside an engine room was found critically injured and was later pronounced dead. Two other workers – one a contractor, the other a Rich employee – were treated for minor injuries.

Workers in the past couple of days have been cleaning up the plant to prepare it to resume production, said Dwight Gram, a spokesman for the Buffalo-based food products company. “We feel confident we can at least get some production up and running this weekend.”

Gram said the Ministry of Labour, which has been investigating the incident, has reported to the company that it found no malfunctions in the plant’s equipment. “The investigation is ongoing, with the likelihood that the cause is human error,” Gram said.

A Niagara Regional Police spokesman referred questions to the Ministry of Labour. William Lin, a ministry spokesman, said the investigation continues.

Gram said the company plans to schedule a town hall-style meeting in the next couple of weeks in the community where the plant is located, to talk about the incident and answer questions. The afternoon of the incident, nearby residents were told to remain in their homes with the windows closed until the problem was resolved. Rich has had operations in Fort Erie for more than 50 years.