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2 burned at East Grand Forks beet plant; victim of January accident still recovering

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EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. -- Two people were burned in a weekend accident at the American Crystal Sugar plant in East Grand Forks.

By Kevin Bonham and Stephen J. Lee

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Forum News Service

EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. -- Two people were burned in a weekend accident at the American Crystal Sugar plant in East Grand Forks.

The East Grand Forks Fire Department responded to the call shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday.

The two men were transported to Altru Hospital in Grand Forks. Their names and conditions had not been released by emergency officials or company officials Monday.

While some news reports said the men suffered burns from near-boiling water, those reports were not confirmed Monday by fire department or hospital spokespersons.

The Minnesota office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is reviewing details of the accident Monday, according to James Honerman, OSHA spokesman in St. Paul. He said the agency will determine its response once the review is completed.

Earlier accident

Meanwhile, OSHA is continuing to review a Jan. 29 accident in which a worker was critically burned in the East Grand Forks factory, according to Honerman.

In the January incident, the man received critical burns when a hot syrupy liquid spewed out of a large tank or pipes leading into the tank, according to emergency workers and employees who spoke on condition they were not identified.

The man is from Chicago and was hired after the lockout of union employees Aug. 1, 2011, sources told the Herald.

According to entries from his children on the Caring Bridge website, the man remains sedated in critical condition in Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis and has not been able to talk to them yet. But he has improved much and opened his eyes a few weeks ago. But he still has not been able to talk or respond to visitors. Only his family members are allowed to visit.

In their latest entry dated March 27, his children wrote: “So we are in Minneapolis visiting our Dad and even though he looks very sleepy and hasn’t really been awake for us, he looks so much better. He’s definitely made a lot of progress. Thank you again for all the prayers and comments.”

Nearly all 120 or so comments posted in the “guestbook,” online since the incident on the Caring Bridge site have been positive, from co-workers at the plant as well as old friends and family members from the Chicago area and elsewhere.

American Crystal officials have said they cannot say anything about the man’s condition because he is not a company employee, but contracted through Strom Engineering in Minnetonka; that company also has declined repeated requests for comments on the man’s condition and circumstances of the incident.

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