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Minnesota paper mill blast kills one

08 June 2012

On May 28 an explosion and fire at the Verso Paper Corp mill in Sartell, Minnesota, led to the death of one employee and four others being injured. As of yet, the cause of the explosion is unknown. A city administrator said that it appears the explosion deactivated the sprinkler system.

"The tragic loss of our employee, Jon Maus, makes this an especially difficult time for Verso and our employees," said Dave Paterson, Verso's President and Chief Executive Officer.

In a statement on June 7, the company said it has completed a preliminary assessment of the damage resulting from the explosion and fire, and there was substantial damage to the mill's paper warehouse and important infrastructure including the electrical system. Verso says that over 5,000 tons of finished paper and work-in-process inventory were destroyed and has concluded that a period of several months would be required to complete the necessary repairs to the mill.

Parallel with the damage assessment, Verso has begun an investigation into the origin and cause of the explosion and fire at the Sartell mill. "Our top priority is to determine why this unfortunate event happened and to make sure that nothing like it ever happens again," said Paterson.

The Sartell mill has consistently achieved "Star" status in the Voluntary Protection Program sponsored by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which recognises employers and employees who have demonstrated exemplary achievement in the prevention and control of occupational safety and health hazards, according to the company.

Verso says the State Fire Marshal Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Verso's insurer also are investigating the incident, adding that it is voluntarily and fully cooperating with these investigations.

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