Liquid Nitrogen Leak Kills 6 At Georgia Poultry Plant

01 Feb, 2021 Liz Carey


Gainesville, GA ( – Leaking liquid nitrogen at a Georgia poultry processing plant is thought to be what killed six employees and sent 11 others to the hospital.

At least three of the employees hospitalized are in critical condition, officials said.

During a press conference Thursday, officials said it could be some time before they determine what happened and what caused the leak at the Foundation Food Group plant in Gainesville. Local, state and federal police, as well as inspectors from the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board are involved in the investigation.

Zach Brackett, Hall County fire division chief, said that firefighters responded at about 10:12 a.m. to a report of burns at the plant. Once they arrived, firefighters noticed that employees had been evacuated and that “multiple victims that were in that crowd were also experiencing medical emergencies around the facility.”

Apart from the workers killed and hospitalized, another 130 people were taken by school buses to a church for medical evaluations, Brackett said.

Jameel Fareed, an employee at the plant, told Atlanta’s Channel 2 Action News that the leak sent the plant into turmoil.

"First we just thought there was something wrong with the freezer, then they started saying get out," Fareed said. "I just saw the fog and when I couldn't see down the steps, I turned around. But I didn't feel anything."

Five workers were found dead at the plant. Another worker, who had been transferred to Northeast Georgia Medical Center, died at the hospital.

"Those lost today include maintenance, supervisory, and management team members," said Foundation Food Group Vice President for Human Resources Nicholas Ancrum at a news conference. "Every team member is equally important to us." 

Preliminary indications, Ancrum said, are that a nitrogen line ruptured inside the plant. 

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, tweeted the union’s condolences.

“Our hearts go out to the loved ones of the six workers who tragically died and those who were critically injured in a preventable accident at the Foundation Food Group plant in Gainesville, Georgia,” he tweeted. “This did not have to happen. Safety concerns have long been raised as a major issue in many poultry plants, and Thursday’s incident shows what can happen when those calls go unheard.”

A GoFundMe account has been set up for some of the workers in the plant to get medical examinations. Diana Chávez, one of the GoFundMe page organizers, said many of the workers taken for medical evaluations left before they could be properly examined.

“Despite extensive coverage of the poor working conditions in many facilities, corporations have largely chosen apathy and neglect over protecting these essential workers who work in hazardous conditions to make sure we can all have food on the table,” the GoFundMe page said. “130 workers were transported to a nearby church and presumably checked for respiratory distress, many workers felt it necessary to leave the premises out of fear that their legal status might be called into question or even used against them. Up to 100 of these workers have not undergone a pulmonary examination to verify their level of chemical exposure. Your donation will help provide pulmonary examinations to these workers.”

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    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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