Chemical Incident Reports Center
CIRC Results
  Incident Title  
British Worker Killed, 6 Overcome as Nitrogen Fills Room in Building Next to New York City Hospital
Location Date of Incident
New York City, NY, United States 9/20/2000
CSB Incident Number NRC Report Number Board Ref. Number
2000-4962 None Reported None Reported
Current Status Date of Report Update
No CSB Action 9/21/2000 - 1:46 PM
Incident Types Location Types
- Asphyxiation
- Release to Environment
Fixed Facility
Evacuations Injuries Fatalities
None Reported 6 (Estimate) 1
Chemicals Involved
- Nitrogen
Description or Latest Development
Information Added: Thursday, September 21, 2000 - 1:57 PM
Liquid nitrogen leaked for unexplained reasons into a room in a small building next to New York Hospital - Cornell Medical Center yesterday (9/20/2000), killing one person and overcoming six others.

The deceased victime worked for GE Medical Systems, based in Waukesha, Wis.  He and other GE employees were installing an MRI system for the hospital's medical school.  Patients were never in danger, the hospital said in a statement.

"It's the first accident of its kind in our 15-year history in the MRI system," said company spokesman Charles Young.

Young said GE has installed more than 7,500 systems worldwide, with more than 5,500 currently operating.

The identity of the victim was being withheld pending notification of his family.  

Yound saidn the man and the other workers were based in Great Britain, and usaully work out of a facility in Oxford.  The group was in the city temporarily to install the MRI system... the process takes about four weeks, and the group had just begun its work, Young said.

"They were pumping liquid nitrogen into the magnet to cool it to prepare it before helium was put in," Yound said.  Helium is the coolant used inthe system.

It's not certain why the pumps leaked liquid nitrogen into the room, located at 525 E. 70th St., next to the main hospital.  But once the gas leaked, it removed all the oxygen in the room.  

The pumps were disconnected and removed from the site.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who went to the scene, said two other workers tried to revive the victim, but were overcome by the fumes and became dizzy.  Those two workers and four other people, including hospital workers and a firefighter, were treated at the hospital and then released.

MRI scans allow doctors to look inside the body without surgery or X-rays.  MRIs have coils on the machine that act as antennae to pick up the body's electromagnetic signals and illuminate them.

Sources ( * indicates the original source) Source Details
  • Media - Associated Press *
09/20/2000 1845EDT 


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