A Rosemount fertilizer plant and an Oklahoma firm have been cited for serious violations in connection with the work-related deaths of two truck drivers exposed to anhydrous ammonia during an unloading accident last November.

The accident occurred at CF Industries' Pine Bend facility, which makes fertilizer.

Worker-safety officials investigated whether the men's employer, a small trucking firm called High Pressure Transports of Kingfisher, Okla., had properly trained them to load and unload the poisonous compound. On Tuesday, Minnesota OSHA disclosed that the company received a fatality penalty of $25,000. The company failed to provide safe working conditions, OSHA documents say.

CF Industries was fined $1,400 for failing to make sure all emergency respirators were inspected at least monthly and in accordance with manufacturer's recommendations. That citation also noted the respirators were to be checked for proper function before and after each use.

Neither company contested the citations, said James Honerman, a spokesman for Minnesota OSHA. "They paid the penalties and corrected the items that Minnesota OSHA asked them to correct," he said.

Killed at the scene on Nov. 16 was 31-year-old Robert Shue of Kingfisher. Roy Thomas Taylor, 56, of Moore, Okla., died about two weeks later at Regions Hospital in St. Paul.

Shue and at least one other trucker had been in Minnesota for several weeks, picking up loads of ammonia in Rosemount and delivering them to sites for Crystal Valley Cooperative of Lake Crystal, said Evan Winters, co-owner of the Oklahoma firm.

Shortly after the accident, a spokesman said other truckers had reported Shue was having trouble with a connection between a pipe delivering the ammonia and the tank on his truck. The high-pressure piping dislodged and the toxic liquid rushed out and vaporized.

A CF employee saw the ammonia vapor cloud and within seconds hit a button shutting down the flow. A Dakota County sheriff's deputy, Rosemount police officer and fellow trucker couldn't get near Shue, but they pulled Taylor about 35 feet to safety. He had already suffered mortal injuries.

Shue hadn't discussed his training with his parents but was "mechanically inclined" when it came to doing that type of work, his father, Claude Shue, said shortly after Robert died.

"He was a happy-go-lucky guy, but he was a professional at what he did," Shue said. "I'm sure he knew what he was doing."

In Rosemount, CF Industries has had no explosions, fatalities or other accidents that could result in such an inspection in the past 5 1/2 years, Honerman said.

Joy Powell • 612-673-7750