Ammonia Leak on Boat Sends Man to Hospital

Sentinel Staff Writer
    A man working on a processor-tender vessel tied up at the Sitka Sound Seafoods dock was medevacked to Seattle this afternoon after he was exposed to ammonia gas on the boat, the fire department said.
    Fire Chief Dave Miller said the man was working in the hold of the Elgin B and received “a full blast of ammonia” from a leak of the refrigerant in the hold.
    Firefighters, EMS and Sitka police received the 911 call at 10:51 a.m. and dispatched an ambulance to the Katlian Street dock. Miller said the first report was that there was a “man down” at the end of the dock, but no other information about the cause. The man had collapsed on the deck of the vessel after he was able to get out of the hold with the assistance of other crew members.
    Emergency workers closed off Katlian Street for a time, but reopened it to traffic when they determined there was no danger to the public.
    EMS crews loaded the patient onto the good samaritan vessel F/V Northwind that came alongside. He was transferred to the harbor skiff, and taken to an awaiting ambulance in Eliason Harbor. The patient was admitted to Sitka Community Hospital and later medevacked to Seattle, the chief said.
    The Northwind towed the Elgin away from the dock to allow the remaining gas to dissipate in the atmosphere.
    There were complaints about the gas in the neighborhood but “it was never bad enough to evacuate the area,” Miller said.
    Some businesses on Katlian Street – including Sitka Sound Seafoods and Sitka Tribe of Alaska – evacuated on their own, Miller said. Firefighters continued monitoring the ammonia smell in various parts of town, and noted the smell was stronger in the lower-lying areas before it faded away, Miller said.
    The chief said a few people in the area reported stinging eyes, or went into the local hospitals to be examined. One of the crew members on the Elgin B approached EMS members on the scene for medical attention related to his exposure to the gas, Miller said. A harbor employee helping out on the call was also taken in for medical treatment, the chief added.
    The Elgin B is currently anchored outside the Eliason Harbor breakwater.
    Miller said the entire incident was wrapped up by 12:08 p.m.

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