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Fremont Co., site of fatal roof collapse, to call back 45 seasonal employees

FREMONT - A month after a roof collapsed at Fremont Co., killing one man and injuring three others, the shuttered food processing plant expects to begin calling employees back to work next week.

Company spokesman Chris Smith said Wednesday that the plant will call in 45 seasonal employees next week when it receives its first shipments of cabbage. Twenty full-time employees could be back to work in "two to three weeks," he said, to resume packaging sauerkraut produced there.

The first shipments of cabbage had been scheduled to be shipped in the week following the collapse, but the "coring shed" where workers remove cores and shred cabbage, was adjacent to the site of the roof collapse, Mr. Smith said.

"They've demolished the structure to where the coring shed can be operationally safe," he said. "Also, we needed to restore power and water to the coring building, and we could not do that until the demolition occurred so we could get in there and do that safely."

The concrete roof that covered the plant's cook room collapsed on July 7, pinning two men under the heavy debris. Nate Kern, 35, of Gibsonburg was killed. Todd Michael of Fremont was seriously injured but survived. Two other men suffered minor injuries.

Jule Hovi, area director for the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said the agency is investigating the cause of the accident.

Mr. Smith said the company would like to rebuild its cook room as soon as possible but is still working on designs.

"There's still a lot to do," Mr. Smith said. "The main thing is to get operational to where we can get going, to get people back to work. That's the goal."

He estimates that because of the delays, the company lost approximately 15 percent of the cabbage it had contracted with local farmers to supply. Fremont Co., which purchases cabbage from farms within a 30-mile radius, still must pay for the spoiled cabbage, he said.

Production of various sauces, marinades, and nonalcoholic drink mixes has been moved to Fremont Co.'s plants in Toledo and Rockford, Ohio, Mr. Smith said.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.

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