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Rindge

Market reopens after emergency

GAS LEAK: Refrigerant cylinder suspected in Sunday evacuation VICTIMS: All nine employees sent to hospital have been released

  • Emergency crews from across the region responded to Market Basket in Rindge on Sunday night after employees complained of respiratory problems. At least one employee collapsed and nine total were transported to nearby hospitals.

    Emergency crews from across the region responded to Market Basket in Rindge on Sunday night after employees complained of respiratory problems. At least one employee collapsed and nine total were transported to nearby hospitals. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Emergency crews from across the region responded to Market Basket in Rindge on Sunday night after employees complained of respiratory problems. At least one employee collapsed and nine total were transported to nearby hospitals.

    Emergency crews from across the region responded to Market Basket in Rindge on Sunday night after employees complained of respiratory problems. At least one employee collapsed and nine total were transported to nearby hospitals. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Cars filled the parking lot at the Rindge Market Basket on Monday after an air-quality issue on Sunday evening where 9 people were transported to nearby hospitals.

    Cars filled the parking lot at the Rindge Market Basket on Monday after an air-quality issue on Sunday evening where 9 people were transported to nearby hospitals. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Cars filled the parking lot at the Rindge Market Basket on Monday after an air-quality issue on Sunday evening where 9 people were transported to nearby hospitals.

    Cars filled the parking lot at the Rindge Market Basket on Monday after an air-quality issue on Sunday evening where 9 people were transported to nearby hospitals. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Cars filled the parking lot at the Rindge Market Basket on Monday after an air-quality issue on Sunday evening where 9 people were transported to nearby hospitals.

    Cars filled the parking lot at the Rindge Market Basket on Monday after an air-quality issue on Sunday evening where 9 people were transported to nearby hospitals. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Emergency crews from across the region responded to Market Basket in Rindge on Sunday night after employees complained of respiratory problems. At least one employee collapsed and nine total were transported to nearby hospitals.
  • Emergency crews from across the region responded to Market Basket in Rindge on Sunday night after employees complained of respiratory problems. At least one employee collapsed and nine total were transported to nearby hospitals.
  • Cars filled the parking lot at the Rindge Market Basket on Monday after an air-quality issue on Sunday evening where 9 people were transported to nearby hospitals.
  • Cars filled the parking lot at the Rindge Market Basket on Monday after an air-quality issue on Sunday evening where 9 people were transported to nearby hospitals.
  • Cars filled the parking lot at the Rindge Market Basket on Monday after an air-quality issue on Sunday evening where 9 people were transported to nearby hospitals.

RINDGE — Nine Rindge Market Basket employees were transported to nearby hospitals Sunday evening after several people collapsed in a back room of the supermarket on Route 202.

Customers filled the store once it reopened Monday morning, though by late afternoon there were no notices or other materials posted indicating the Sunday incident.

Market Basket corporate officials did not return multiple phone calls Monday, and Rindge store officials could not be reached for an interview either by phone or during a visit to the store late Monday afternoon.

According to a press release sent out by the Rindge Fire Department Monday, the hospitalized employees, who have since been released, were suffering a wide range of symptoms, including dizziness, nausea and some respiratory irritation.

In addition to those taken by ambulance, Rindge Fire Chief Rickard Donovan said in a phone interview Monday morning that area hospitals reported several walk-in patients from the incident as well. The press release indicated that six walk-in patients were received at Heywood Hospital in Gardner, Mass. Those transported went to Heywood Hospital as well as Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough and Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene. Two patients were sent to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Mass., too.

Names of those hospitalized have not been released, but all have been treated and sent home. According to the press release, all the patients are in stable condition.

In a 9:30 p.m. Sunday interview outside the supermarket, Donovan said that investigators found a leaking valve on a 30-pound refrigerant container. As of Monday morning, the cause of the incident was still undetermined, though it appeared to source from the container full of refrigerant gas. “We’re strongly suspecting that it was a refrigerant leak,” Donovan said.

In the press release sent out later Monday, the fire department stated that it was still unconfirmed whether the valve leak on one of the 14 refrigerant cylinders was the cause of the incident. Donovan said that at this time officials are not looking at the incident as criminal in nature.

Donovan said all the complaints of breathing problems came from store employees, most of whom were meeting in a back room of the market shortly before the store’s 7 p.m. closing for a year-end inventory when the incident occurred. He estimated there were at least 150 Market Basket employees in the store at the time. On Monday morning, Donovan said that there were also “a lot” of customers in the store at the time, though the Fire Chief did not indicate that any experienced symptoms.

The first call for emergency personnel came in around 6:13 p.m. when a woman working for the store collapsed, according to Donovan. In the minutes following, two more employees began suffering symptoms. As Rindge Fire arrived on the scene at 6:27 p.m., a total of nine employees were in need of medical treatment.

Working in protective gear, firefighters evacuated the store by pulling the fire alarm and performed triage. Fire personnel also checked to make sure that the other building occupants had evacuated as well.

On Monday, several Market Basket employees spoke on the condition of anonymity. One employee said that though he had been in the back room at the time, he hadn’t seen much before they were evacuated.

Another employee was not present on Sunday evening but had heard about the incident from fellow employees. “As far as I know, it was a little hectic,” he said.

Donovan said on Sunday night that by the time crews arrived, the ventilation system in the main part of the store had kicked in, so he was uncertain whether any leaks made it beyond the back room. “We couldn’t identify any other hazardous atmosphere,” Donovan said Monday morning.

Emergency crews from at least Rindge, Jaffrey and Keene were at the scene Sunday night. Donovan said he was also assisted by a Keene Hazmat unit and the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

In the press release, officials stated that continuous testing performed by a Keene Hazmat unit on Sunday night did not find anything.

All vendors for Market Basket, including refrigerant experts, were called in Sunday evening to help determine the cause of the leak. Any items not fixed to the store’s refrigerating system were removed, and the refrigerant system went through a complete check before the store re-opened. Donovan said that the fire department also contacted the New Hampshire Health Department and New Hampshire Emergency Management offices to follow up on the incident.

Interviews were conducted in Market Basket on Monday morning by the New Hampshire Health Department, Rindge Fire Department, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but the investigation did not determine the cause of the incident. Without any known hazards from the previous night’s testing and Monday’s investigation, both store and safety officials deemed the building safe for occupation.

A large number of customers were in the store Monday afternoon despite the incident. Heather Lambert, a Jaffrey resident who was shopping with her 11-year-old daughter, Hannah, said she felt nervous at first coming to the store. “I think there should be some type of notice reassuring people that everything’s okay,” Lambert said.

David Brackett, a Fitzwilliam resident who routinely does his grocery shopping on Sunday evening, said he wasn’t there on Sunday night because of the Patriot’s game. “I would have been here,” he said.

Brackett said he felt OK about being in the store on Monday. “I figure if they’re open, it’s safe enough,” he said. “I don’t worry too much about it.”

Donovan said on Monday that the fire department would be meeting soon with the supermarket manager, the facilities manager, and different vendors to go over operation and emergency procedures to ensure the safety of the store employees and customers. “We will be working with them,” he said, “so we can look at the plans, update them, revise them, do whatever we need to do to prevent this from happening again.”

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