Northern Ireland news

Emergency services praised over response to Kilkeel gas leak that left 14 needing hospital treatment

Fourteen people were taken to hospital following a suspected ammonia leak at a Young's Seafood processing plant in Kilkeel, Co Down. Picture by Pacemaker
Paul Ainsworth

Emergency services have been praised for their response to an ammonia gas leak at a Co Down fish processing plant that left 14 people requiring treatment in hospital.

The incident occurred at the Young’s Seafood plant in Kilkeel on Monday afternoon, when routine inspection work was being carried out.

Fire crews, eight ambulances and the air ambulance were called to the plant shortly after 12.30pm and a major incident was declared, however, the cause of leak had been isolated before firefighters arrived.

A spokesperson for the NI Fire and Rescue Service said: "Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus surveyed the site with gas monitors to check for the presence of ammonia gas – all readings were zero."

Two people exposed to the gas were given oxygen therapy by firefighters before a total of 14 casualties were ferried by ambulance to the Emergency Department at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry. The Southern Health and Social Care Trust implemented a Major Incident Plan, and appealed for people not to attend the Emergency Department unless they had "urgent, life-threatening conditions".

Two of those exposed to the gas were kept overnight at the hospital and a Southern Trust spokeswoman said last night that the pair were in a stable condition.

She added: "We would like to thank all of our staff and partners in the NI Ambulance Service and NI Fire and Rescue Service for dealing with this incident as calmly and professionally as always and for making sure that all of our patients received the best possible care."

In a statement, a spokesperson for Young's Seafood said the company expects production on the site to resume today, adding: "Our focus is on ensuring the safety and welfare of our team and continuing to provide our customers and consumers with great quality fish and seafood."

An investigation into the leak will now be carried out by the Health and Safety Executive.

Meanwhile, the response of the emergency services to the emergency was praised further, with local Sinn Féin councillor Sean Doran saying they performed "great work".

He said: "Their response ensured this emergency was dealt with in a professional and swift manner, and the community would like to offer their gratitude. Thankfully it looks like those kept overnight in hospital are there as a precautionary measure. Kilkeel has endured its share of tragedy in the fishing industry over the years, so we are grateful that this situation was contained so quickly."

Ulster Unionist Councillor Jill Macauley said of the emergency crews: "I would like to thank them for such professionalism in what was a worrying and potentially dangerous situation. They did sterling work to make sure everyone was safe."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news