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Rio Tinto Kennecott employee dies after exposure to toxic gas

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah – A Rio Tinto Kennecott employee has died after being exposed to sulfur dioxide gas.

Officials said 64-year-old Albert Lozano was performing “regular work duties” in the company’s smelter when it happened Sunday.

According to facility officials, Lozano was removing debris from a broiler when he was exposed to the sulfur dioxide gases.

Emergency crews treated Lozano on site and then took him to a nearby hospital.

He died days later on Tuesday night.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy and our hearts go out to our colleague’s family at this difficult time,” Kennecott Managing Director Marc Cameron said. “We have lost a valuable employee and dear friend, and this incident will have a lasting impact on all of us.”

Cameron fought back tears as he talked about Lozano's death.

"You do everything you possibly can each and every day to avoid something like this," he said.

Local Union President, Scott Mullins, says Lozano was a model employee, always willing to work overtime even though he had to commute all the way from Santaquin.

"He’s a hard-working guy," Mullins said. "You give him a task, he takes pride in it. He’ll do whatever it takes to accomplish that task."

His family released a statement through their attorney, Chris Dexter, saying, "Joann and the entire Lozano family are heartbroken at the loss of their sweet Al. He was a truly gentle family man and coworker who would give anybody the shirt off his back. We so appreciate the thoughts and prayers of all those who knew Albert."

"He just had a great personality," Mullins said. "I mean, Albert was the type where he never caused any waves or any friction. He’s just a great guy and he’ll be missed."

Kennecott doesn't know how Lozano was exposed. The company has launched an independent investigation to try to figure out how it happened.

Kennecott spokesman Kyle Bennett says they shut down all operations for more than an hour Wednesday to discuss safety with employees.

"Because safety is such a core value of our organization that’s why when something like this happens it absolutely shakes the entire organization to the core," Bennett said.

Kennecott said it is providing employee assistance to employees across the business and has initiated an investigation into the incident.