The Times, Gainesville, Ga.
Jan. 28—Six people were killed following a liquid nitrogen leak at Foundation Food Group in Gainesville, authorities said during a 1 p.m. press briefing.
Five were found dead and another died at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, according to hospital spokesman Sean Couch.
Hall County Fire Services and Gainesville Fire were called out around 10:12 a.m. to a report of burns at the plant. Firefighters discovered a large number of employees who had evacuated the building.
Division Chief Zach Brackett said there was not an explosion, which he said was erroneously reported on social media.
Authorities referred to the site as Prime-Pak, which merged with Victory Processing Inc. to form Foundation Food Group.
Hall County Fire Services transferred nine patients to Northeast Georgia Medical Center. Three of these were Gainesville firefighters and one Hall County firefighter “for an evaluation of respiratory complaints,” Brackett said at a morning press conference.
More than 130 people were transported by school bus to Free Chapel for evaluation. One of those was later transported to the hospital as well, Couch said. Couch said they are seeing respiratory impacts from those transferred.
The health system has seen more than 270 COVID-19 positive patients since late December and peaked at 355 patients Jan. 8, straining the hospital’s resources. As the numbers have trended downward in the past few weeks, Couch said they still have an expanded capacity. There were 14 beds available at Gainesville’s hospital Thursday, according to NGHS’ data. Couch said capacity was not an issue for accepting the 10 that were transported.
The incident shut down Memorial Park Drive/Road during the late morning and early afternoon.
Students at nearby Lyman Hall Elementary School were safe and indoors. Officials there heard from authorities about the incident at 10:30 a.m.
“They’re eating lunch, going about learning and their business,” Hall County Schools spokesman Stan Lewis said.
Couch added that school officials were informing parents about what had happened. The school plans to dismiss at its regular time of 2:20 p.m. as the roadway is now reopened, Lewis said.
Buses will be running but delays are to be expected. The school system asked that parents meet their students at the bus stop to ensure adult supervision was available following the incident.
The Hall County Sheriff’s Office is handling the death investigations. The Georgia Fire Marshal’s Office and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are on scene.
Another press conference was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
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