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Refrigerant leak blamed for deaths of six trawlermen

INDONESIA: Six crewmen on a trawler in the Bali Sea are reported to have died following a refrigerant leak onboard the ship.

The unconfirmed press reports blame the deaths on a leak from the trawler’s freezer. Two of the crew were reported to have been “poisoned by freon gas” while cleaning the debris in the ship’s hold. The other four succumbed when they tried to rescue their colleagues. All the men were from Pemalang Regency, Central Java.

While Freon is a trade mark of DuPont (now Chemours) for its fluorinated hydrocarbon refrigerants, “freon” has been adopted as a generic term for refrigerant in many countries. However, none can be described as a poison and none are toxic. 

The actual cause of death in this case has not yet been established, but there have been previous tragic incidents involving heavier-than air-refrigerant leaking from ship refrigeration systems, displacing air and asphyxiating those at a lower level on the ship. 

In 2018, a trawler man died of refrigerant asphyxiation onboard a ship in Fraserburgh, Scotland, while cleaning a refrigerated salt water tank after an R22 leak. 

Related stories:

Trawlerman asphyxiated by R22 leak19 October 2018
UK: Initial investigations have blamed failed evaporator tubes on a refrigeration plant for the asphyxiation of a crewman in Fraserburgh in August this year. Read more…

Man dies in trawler refrigeration leak5 June 2014
USA: A suspected refrigerant leak from a refrigeration unit onboard a trawler in Alaska, yesterday, has left one person dead and another in hospital. Read more…

Seventeen hurt in refrigerant leaks7 June 2017
USA/THAILAND: Refrigerant leaks have hospitalised 17 people in the last few days in two separate incidents in the US and Thailand. Read more…

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