Contractors respond to ConAgra lawsuit

GARNER Investigators have said a natural gas leak ignited inside the plant. The blast killed three employees and injured dozens of others.

A defense attorney for Southern Industrial, a company ConAgra hired to do natural gas work at the factory, said Tuesday, "based on facts we do know ... employees with Southern Industrial Constructors did not conduct any work within or above the pump room where the explosion allegedly occurred."

Click here to read more background about the explosion

Attorney J. David Stradley in Johnston County filed a complaint on Monday on behalf of two of the ConAgra employees.

The suit stated that Southern Industrial was negligent.

Stradley stated in court documents that the employees are seeking $10,000 for injuries they sustained in the collapse.

But the defense attorney for Southern Industrial, Rod Pettey, said the investigation was ongoing and it was too early to know the exact cause of the explosion.

"The lawsuit against Southern Industrial Constructors is currently in litigation so we cannot share many details about the case," Pettey said. "It does not appear that the work performed by Southern Industrial was in any way involved in the explosion. The company is fully cooperating with all state investigative agencies."

On Wednesday, Pettey released another statement about new information in regards to the lawsuit.

"We can confirm four Southern Industrial employees were on site at the ConAgra Foods plant at the time of the explosion," he said. "Two employees were within the plant building at a trolley maintenance area, which is not where the explosion occurred and is unrelated to the gas lines or water heaters. One employee was just outside the plant building and a fourth employee was at a waste water facility some distance from the plant. None of these employees were near the pump room where the explosion occurred and none were working on gas lines or water heaters."

Southern Industrial provides services throughout the Southeast, including industrial construction, industrial electrical construction, plant installations and relocations, rigging and plant maintenance service and specialized metal fabrication.

It has been recognized by the N.C. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Division for outstanding work in accident prevention for 16 consecutive years.

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