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Worker remains hospitalized after Louisiana plant explosion

By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - One worker remained hospitalized on Saturday following an explosion at a Donaldsonville, Louisiana, nitrogen production plant on Friday that killed one worker and injured seven.

CF Industries said one company employee is in stable condition at a local hospital while the other injured people, including CF workers and employees of the company's contractors, were released after being treated.

Killed in the incident was 56-year-old Ronald "Rocky" Morris Jr., who had worked at the company for 34 years.

The accident occurred at about 6 p.m. on Friday in a section of the plant that had been shut down for maintenance activity, Frey said. A piece of equipment called a nitrogen distribution header ruptured during the off-loading of nitrogen from a truck. The company said the accident produced no fire or chemical release and did not pose any threat or hazard to the surrounding area.

Donaldsonville is a small city on the Mississippi River about 60 miles northwest of New Orleans.

"Our priority right now is the health and safety of our employees," Donaldsonville plant manager Lou Frey said in a company news release.

The explosion came a day after a blast occurred at a Williams Olefins petrochemical plant about 10 miles to the north in Geismar that killed two people and injured more than 100. Five workers injured in that accident remain hospitalized, according to the company.

Frey said CF Industries is investigating the cause of the explosion in Donaldsonville and continues to cooperate with local and regulatory agencies.

CF Industries manufactures ammonia and other nitrogen fertilizers at its Donaldsonville facility and ships about 5 million tons of ammonia and other nitrogen fertilizers annually for agricultural and industrial uses, according to the company website. The plant was built in the 1960s.

The company is headquartered in Deerfield, Illinois.

A fire and massive blast at a nitrate fertilizer plant in West, Texas, in April killed 14 people and injured more than 200, focusing attention on the hazards of handling chemicals.

(Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Mohammad Zargham)

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