British Columbia

1 dead after ammonia leak at ice-making facility in Kamloops, B.C.

One person has died after an ammonia leak Thursday at an ice-making facility in an industrial area of Kamloops, B.C.

Several others treated at hospital in relation to leak

The 700-block of Sarcee Street East in Kamloops, B.C., was shut down Thursday as crews respond to an ammonia leak in the area. (Marcella Bernardo/CBC)

One person has died after an ammonia leak Thursday at an ice-making facility in an industrial area of Kamloops, B.C.

The leak started inside the Arctic Glacier Ice building at 790 Sarcee St. East in Mount Paul Industrial Park around 10:30 a.m. PT. 

One person was transported to hospital in critical condition and later died, according to police.

Deputy Fire Chief Ryan Cail told The Canadian Press that the person who died is believed to be a man in his 60s.

B.C. Emergency Health Services says two other people were taken to hospital in stable condition, while about six people, who were also stable, were assessed at the scene. A spokesperson for BCEHS said others affected by the leak may have made their way to hospital on their own.

Interior Health confirmed the death of the patient in critical condition and said Kamloops' Royal Inland Hospital received a total of four other people affected by the leak, all of whom were treated as needed and discharged.

An RCMP vehicle is seen near the site of an ammonia leak in Kamloops, B.C., on Thursday. (Marcella Bernardo/CBC)

According to The Canadian Press, Cail says there was a malfunction with an ammonia bottle. 

"The valve was dislodged, broke or malfunctioned. We're not aware of how it was discharged, but a large amount of ammonia was released," he said, adding that two other employees managed to escape the building.

"The details of how this specific individual was unable to get out are unknown'' and will be under investigation, he said.

RCMP, WorkSafeBC and the B.C. Coroner's Service are also investigating the incident.

Chris Leader says he heard a "pop" followed by a plume of smoke coming from the building where the ammonia leak originated. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

A hazmat team with Kamloops Fire Rescue responded to the leak, as did WorkSafeBC. The industrial park is north of downtown Kamloops, on the other side of the South Thompson River.

Cail says crews didn't realize they were dealing with ammonia until they arrived to find a strong smell in the air.

"Crews learned once they got on scene that it was actually a cloud of ammonia that had escaped a bottle from the facility within the building," Cail told CBC News.

Chris Leader, who works about 200 metres away from the site of the leak, was having lunch in his truck when he says he heard a "pop" and saw a "great big" plume of smoke coming out of the Arctic Glacier Ice building. He said the smoke rose about 30 metres and was blown east. 

He says he and his co-workers were told to evacuate as quickly as possible but weren't told how long they should stay away. 

"[It was] a little scary," he said. "It was ammonia, and you know what that can do."

The area around 790 Sarcee Street East in Kamloops, B.C., is seen in on Google Streetview. (Google Streetview)

Ammonia is a colourless but pungent gas used in refrigeration systems, power generation and manufacturing. 

Inhaling low concentrations of ammonia can irritate the eyes and respiratory systems, but large amounts can be deadly. Three people were killed by a leak while trying to fix ice-making equipment at a hockey rink in Fernie, B.C., in 2017.

RCMP Const. Crystal Evelyn said most roads around the scene have reopened, except for the immediate area on Sarcee Street.

In a tweet, the City of Kamloops said the scene was considered stable, and people who were evacuated could "go about their business in the area."

With files from Jenifer Norwell, Marcella Bernardo and The Canadian Press

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