A liquid nitrogen leak at a poultry plant in Gainesville, Georgia killed six people on Thursday, with multiple people suffering injuries, according to the Associated Press. Beth Downs, a spokesperson for Northeast Georgia Health System, said five people died at the plant and one person died in the hospital. The leak happened after 10 a.m. local time at Prime Pak Foods, and firefighters arrived to "find workers milling around outside."
Hall County Fire Department Division Chief Zach Brackett said four firefighters were taken to the hospital with respiratory complaints. He also said 130 workers were taken by bus to a nearby church where they were examined for injuries. Hall County school officials said the leak was contained and not airborne. Students were kept safe inside a nearby elementary school.
"At approximately 10:30AM this morning, the Hall County Emergency Management Department issued a shelter in place order for Lyman Hall Elementary School due to a nitrogen leak at a nearby poultry plant," Hall County School district said in a Facebook post. "This step was taken out of an abundance of caution."
#Breaking: Hall County, GA officials confirm 5 deaths, 9 others hospitalized in liquid nitrogen leak incident at Prime Pak Foods plant in Gainesville. Few details, another brief 3:30. @TonyThomasWSB on scene , I’m gathering more from employees,OSHA investigation, more @wsbtv https://t.co/769Gqskd85— Nicole Carr (@NicoleCarrWSB) January 28, 2021
Gainesville is considered the poultry capital of the world as thousands of employees work for multiple processing plants. Prime Pak Foods merged into Foundation Food Group, which is, "a company that takes raw chicken and processes it into products like chicken fingers and individual chicken cuts for restaurants and food service operations."
We’ve been asked to leave the church where 130 employees were sent for monitoring after the leak. They’re being checked out now. One man told us he was doing fine, but many are concerned about getting In trouble for talking about this incident . @wsbtv pic.twitter.com/npAp6sEOzc— Nicole Carr (@NicoleCarrWSB) January 28, 2021
When the COVID-19 pandemic first started, the poultry plants in the area were doing everything they can to prevent an outbreak. "The biggest challenge for these employees is the community widespread transmission in the areas where they live, the lack of education about COVID-19, and reluctance to change behaviors," Georgia Public Health spokeswoman Nancy Nydam told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last year.