United States: Liquid nitrogen leak at poultry plant in Georgia kills 6

A liquid nitrogen leak at a poultry plant in the US state of Georgia killed six people on Thursday, with multiple others taken to the hospital, officials said.

Beth Downs, a spokesperson for Northeast Georgia Health System, said five people died at the Gainesville plant before they could be taken to the hospital, while one person died in the emergency room.

Hall County Fire Department Division Chief Zach Brackett said firefighters responded to the leak after 10am at Prime Pak Foods.

“Once the units arrived, they found a large contingent of employees that had evacuated, along with multiple victims that were in that crowd that were also experiencing medical emergencies around the facility,” Brackett told reporters in a televised news briefing.

Brackett said firefighters, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the state fire marshal were investigating what happened. Poultry plants rely on refrigeration systems that can include liquid nitrogen.

“It was a leak of unknown cause that has occurred in the system here,” Brackett said. “We still have a lot of information we’re trying to gather from the scene.”

Brackett said about 130 workers were taken by bus to a nearby church where they were examined for injuries.

Prime Pak Foods merged into Foundation Food Group, a company that takes raw chicken and processes it into products such as chicken fingers and individual chicken cuts for restaurants and foodservice operations.

Gainesville is the centre of Georgia’s poultry industry and is the nation’s largest, with thousands of employees working for multiple processing plants.