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Worker fights for life after Albury tragedy

Wednesday, 30 May 2018
By Print21

‘Trending in the right direction’: Tom Johnson remains on life support at Albury Hospital.

A 22-year-old worker is clinging to life in Albury Base hospital six days after two of his colleagues died in a gas leak at Norske Skog’s Albury paper mill in NSW.

 Tom Johnson remains in a critical condition on life support at the Critical Care Unit at Albury Hospital.  A hospital spokesperson says there has been no change in his condition since he was admitted after the incident last Thursday. Johnson’s mother, father, brother and girlfriend are maintaining a bedside vigil.

The family has issued a media statement, including a photo, thanking hospital staff and expressing their hopes for a positive outcome.

Tom remains on life support but he is trending in the right direction.

We are hoping for a positive outcome however we are acutely aware that this is a very rare condition and that things can change very rapidly.

The level of care Tom has received at Albury Wodonga Health is equal to what he could have received anywhere and we are thankful to the staff here for their exceptional care of our son.

We have been touched by the unconditional support we have received from our family, friends and community during this awful time and we sincerely thank you.

28-year-old Ben Pascall and 37-year-old Lyndon Quinlivan both died at the mill in Ettamogah, near Albury, after being overcome by gas fumes while working on a 15-metre-high water tank during a routine maintenance operation. About 150 people were evacuated from the building after the gas leak and 18 were taken to hospital.

SafeWork NSW says its investigation into the incident is continuing.

“Initial inquiries indicate the men were working in the basement area of the mill when they were overcome by Hydrogen Sulfide gas (H2S) and collapsed,” said a spokesperson.

“SafeWork NSW has secured the area of the incident, has formed an investigation team including inspectors with specialist chemical expertise, and will be on site over the coming days to determine the cause of the incident. SafeWork NSW will be preparing a Report for the Coroner.”

184 people are employed at the mill, which has been shut down since the incident.

Norske Skog’s paper mill at Albury, NSW.

In a statement, Norske Skog, Australia’s only newsprint manufacturer, said it was cooperating with investigations. “Our first concern is to our employees, their families and everyone affected by this tragic accident,” said Albury general manager Milo Foster.

Earlier this month, the state government launched a new safety plan to reduce injuries and fatalities in the manufacturing sector. NSW Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said manufacturing, which employs more than 240,000 workers, was one of the state’s highest risk industries.

“From July 2013 to July 2016 there were almost 41,000 workers’ compensation claims, and tragically there were 24 fatalities,” he said.

Norske Skog was recently acquired by a London-based equity firm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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