GRANITEVILLE, S.C. — Avondale Mills, the oldest U.S. textile manufacturer with more than 160 years of corporate history, says it will cease operations and sell assets by July 31 to maximize value for its creditors and shareholders.
Changes in international trade dynamics and foreign governments' "unfair advantages" strained the company, laments G. Stephen Felker, Avondale's chairman and chief executive officer, but the lingering effects of a January 2005 train derailment outside its Graniteville, S.C., complex have proven too much to overcome.
A Norfolk Southern train transporting tanker cars filled with chlorine struck a parked train, releasing a toxic cloud that killed six Avondale employees and three other people.
The chlorine "works like a cancer" eating away at metals, electronics and even plastics, according to Felker.
"In addition to the human tragedy, the financial impact of higher costs, lost business and severely damaged equipment and plants is greater than we can endure," he says.
Avondale Mills will continue to pursue its legal claims against Norfolk Southern regarding the accident.
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