"September 3, 2012, Labor Day in the US, is the 21st anniversary of this tragic fire that killed 25 workers at the infamous Imperial Food Products chicken processing plant in Hamlet, North Carolina. A video made several years later is now available for public viewing for the first time on my YouTube channel.
Hamlet: The Untold Tragedy 1994 (23 min)
"That morning, workers at the plant in Hamlet, North Carolina, smelled something burning. As they were rapidly engulfed in thick, yellow smoke, an acrid combination of melting insulation and burning soybean oil and chicken, they tried to escape but found the doors to the plant locked. Twenty-five workers died in the tragic fire, one of the worst disasters of its kind, reminiscent of the Triangle Shirt Factory fire in early 1900s New York City, where many seamstresses leapt to their deaths because stairway doors were locked. The film documents the plight of the Imperial Food workers and what effect this tragic event has had in their lives. Besides the fire-related deaths, 56 workers were injured in the fire. Nineteen of the 25 workers killed were single mothers. Altogether, 56 children were touched by the disaster, which led to the death or serious injury of a parent, often times a mother. Owner Roe pleaded guilty to 25 counts of manslaughter. Blame for the fire has generally been attributed to various local, federal and state agencies. The plant was visited daily by the poultry inspector, who knew the plant doors were regularly locked in violation of safety codes, a violation that was never reported. In fact, the Imperial Food plant had already experienced three fire flare-ups earlier that year, but despite obvious danger, fire exits remained locked. The plant had never been inspected by North Carolina OSHA in the 11 years it had been open.
"Thanks to the filmmaker Robert Cotter for permission to post this powerful film.
"This video is one of more than 900 films posted to the YouTube channel Historic Workplace and Environmental Health and Safety Films at http://www.youtube.com/user/markdcatlin.
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