Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Will Curtis, 45, Dies of Poison Gas From Selma Plant, 1930

The Johnsonian-Sun, Selma, N.C., Thursday, May 15, 1930

Selma Negro Dies From Poison Gas

Was Working at the Selma Factory of the Virginia-Carolina Chemical Company

Will Curtis completed his day’s work at the Selma plant of the Virginia-Carolina Chemical Company last Monday and went to his home as usual without any one at the plant suspecting that anything was wrong with him, but after he got home he was taken seriously ill and Dr. Vick was summoned at once.

As soon as the mill authorities learned of his illness from gas poisoning at the plant, a hurried trip to Goldsboro for some Oxygen and Ammonia Dioxide, this being one of the first aids used to counteract the poison, the supply in Selma having been exhausted. Drs. Vick, Person, Booker and Davidian were all called in consultation and it was then decided to take him to the Johnston County Hospital Tuesday afternoon where he died in a few hours after arriving there.

Curtis is said to have been with the Selma factory for a long time and had been subjected to the gas as Nitrogen Dioxide on many previous occasions without any ill effect, as well as a number of other men in the factory. He was cleaning out the gas chambers in the acid plant. This gas is said to be very poisonous, but the factory always keeps a man in charge of this department to look after the men and see that they do not remain in it too long because it is said that any one working in it may get too much without knowing it at the time, and a man is kept on the job to see that none of the men take too great a risk. This procedure having been carried out as usual, and the fact that the Curtis negro was not subjected to any unusual conditions and showed no sign of poisoning when he left the factory, it is thought that the condition of his system at this particular time was responsible for his death. The mill authorities furnished every aid possible to overcome the poison as soon as they learned of his condition, but to no avail.

Curtis was about 45 years old and leaves a wife and several children.

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