Two dead, one injured in Lawrence industrial accident

LAWRENCE | An industrial accident Thursday afternoon at a Lawrence fertilizer plant has left two workers dead and one injured.

The incident occurred around 2:30 p.m. at the MagnaGro International plant on the east side of Lawrence in a small industrial park.

Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical Chief Mark Bradford said one worker fell into a tank of a substance he wouldn't identify. Bradford said the substance isn't normally hazardous, but can be toxic if inhaled in tight quarters.

Fire and police officials were still trying to determine how the second person died and how the third worker was injured in the incident.

A nursing supervisor at Lawrence Memorial Hospital said a worker was treated and released there, but wouldn't disclose the nature of the injuries involved. A firefighter also was treated and released.

MagnaGro makes chemical fertilizers for resale nationwide. Officials for the plant weren't at the scene and not immediately available for comment. A listing for the company names Raymond Sawyer as the owner.

An answering machine at the number listed for MagnaGro said the plant would be closed Friday. Sawyer said he was in South Dakota and not aware of the accident at his business.

Emergency crews and police investigators were evaluating the scene Thursday evening. Hazardous material crews were still analyzing the substances involved to ensure the area was safe. Yellow crime scene tape surrounded the metal building.

This wasn't the first time emergency crews have responded to incidents at MagnaGro, Bradford said.

"There have been past product releases of different types that have been addressed through state and federal agencies," he said.

Bradford said hazardous material crews responded in those instances.

Sawyer pleaded guilty in February 2009 to violating the federal Clean Water Act for dumping waste from the plant in the Lawrence sewer system, according to court records. Sawyer was sentenced to five years' probation.

In October, more than 200 gallons of a fertilizer-like substance spilled into a ditch after it leaked from a tanker truck.