US meat processor Tyson Foods has settled a wrongful death suit filed in relation to the death of two employees at one of its plants.

James Dame Jr. died in 1999 after being overcome by fumes while trying to retrieve a forklift bucket that had fallen into a gas-filled pit at Tyson Foods' River Valley Animal Feeds rendering plant. Michael Hallum died trying to rescue Dame during the incident.

The families of the two deceased filed a wrongful death suit against Tyson in the wake of the tragedy. They sought compensation for pain and suffering, medical and funeral expenses and loss of future earnings. Dame's family also sought US$20m in punitive damages.

The case was settled out of court about one month ago, and was officially closed in court last week. The terms of the settlement have not been revealed.

Tyson has appealed against a citation of wilful violations of worker safety regulations by the Kentucky Labor Cabinets Division of Occupational Safety & Health Compliance which penalised it to the tune of $139,500 following the incident. The appellate body has yet to return a verdict on the case.

Pine Bluff plant to close

Meanwhile, Tyson today [Tuesday] announced it would consolidate operations in its Pine Bluff, Arkansas facilities by moving the production of its Second Avenue plant to its Jefferson Parkway facility in January next year.

The Springdale, Arkansas-based company said "many" of those employed at the closing plant will be offered jobs at the other plant, which is newer.

Total output from the complex will not be affected, nor will relationships with the 170 independent farmers who grow chickens for the Pine Bluff operation, the company said in a statement.