Workers concerned following injury just weeks after 2 killed at Fayetteville plant

Cumberland County News

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Workers at Valley Proteins are calling for safer working conditions following two serious incidents in two weeks.

A spokesperson for the Fayetteville Fire Department said one worker was taken to the hospital early Saturday morning after a crane collapsed on the cab of a truck, while the driver was inside.

Chris Hollis is a former employee and a spokesperson for Valley Protein Blue Collar Workers Organizing Committee. He said the incident is one of the reasons workers are speaking out.

“Lucky enough the driver inside the yard jockey vehicle saw the boon coming towards his vehicle and laid down into the floor — besides God’s grace that’s the only thing that saved him,” Hollis said.

According to an OSHA records search from the past decade, Valley Proteins has 10 cases that yielded violations. The violations occurred at the Rose Hill, Fayetteville, and Gastonia locations, according to the records.

The agency is investigating a hazmat incident from two weeks ago. Kevin Hoeft and Brad Zipp died after being found unresponsive.

Valley Proteins said it is investigating that incident and said workers may not have followed safety protocols.

“This unfortunate accident is one of those things that just highlights the importance of safety,” employee Terry Green said. “You still have the right to demand safety when you leave your house to go try and make a living.”

Hoeft worked at the plant for 13 years. His fiancé Tina Elsenpeter said he was a hard worker who never told anyone no. She said she wants answers.

“I hate it for the other family and I hate it for my family because there’s just so much grief, and it’s just unfair,” Elsenpeter said.

CBS 17 reached out to the North Carolina Department of Labor who sent us this statement regarding whether or not the incident was reported to OSH.

“The OSH Complaint Desk has no indication that this accident was reported by the employer or anyone else. However, based on the media referral information, we have assigned an OSH Compliance Officer who will initiate an investigation into the incident.”

Valley Proteins sent the following statement in response to CBS 17’s request for comment.

“On Saturday Morning, September 25th, Valley Proteins engaged an outside contractor wrecker at the Fayetteville Valley Proteins Plant. The wrecker was operated by Soles Wrecker Service and during the course of use of the wrecker on Valley Proteins property, the contractor’s wrecker outrigger failed and the boom from the wrecker crushed a Valley Proteins yard truck that was occupied by our driver. The driver of the yard truck was taken, as a precaution, by ambulance to the local hospital where he was later released with no injuries.”

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