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Liquid Nitrogen Leak Kills 6, Injures Several Others at A Plant in Gainesville, GA

Law Firm of Walter Gabriel Jan. 29, 2021

Six people died and responders transported several others for emergency care after a liquid nitrogen leak at a chicken processing plant on Thursday, January 28, 2021, according to officials in Hall County, Georgia. Emergency responders transported about 130 people to a nearby church for a medical evaluation. The incident happened around 10 a.m. Thursday at the Foundation Food Group poultry facility, which is located at 2076 Memorial Park Drive in Gainesville, GA – 60 miles northeast of Atlanta.

The Victims

Authorities release names of the victims – which include five men and one woman:

  • Jose DeJesus Elias-Cabrera, 45, of Gainesville

  • Corey Alan Murphy, 35, of Clermont

  • Nelly Perez-Rafael, 28, of Gainesville 

  • Saulo Suarez-Bernal, 41, of Dawsonville

  • Victor Vellez, 38, of Gainesville

  • Edgar Vera-Garcia, 28, of Gainesville

According to Zachary Brackett of Hall County Fire Services, five of the six victims died at the scene. Another victim died while receiving treatment at a nearby hospital.

Emergency Response

Dispatchers sent fire crews from Hall County and Gainesville to respond to a report of burns at the Foundation Foods facility at 10:12 a.m., according to Zachary Brackett of Hall County Fire Services. Within minutes, a flurry of frantic 911 calls quickly escalated as employees at the plant realized the severity of the liquid nitrogen leak and the danger they all faced. Within 10 minutes, the report updated to a hazardous materials response.

Accounts from Inside the Plant

On Friday, authorities released 911 audio calls from employees at the facility that detail the horror inside.

Jameel Fareed is an employee of Foundation Food Group who was working where the leak started Thursday morning. Fareed described the ordeal to an Atlanta-based television station, saying he and his co-workers “thought there was something wrong with the freezer, then they started saying get out.” Freed continued saying, “I just saw the fog and when I couldn’t see down the steps, I turned around. But I didn’t feel anything.”

The victims were all employees at Foundation Food Group and served on the maintenance and supervisory team. Of the victims who survived, three are still in critical condition.

Friends and Family Remember the Victims

The victims’ family members and friends took to social media to express the shock of their tragic loss. A post on Facebook describes 35-year-old Corey Alan Murphy as a loving and hard-working man. According to reports, Murphy was a father of two young daughters and a devoted husband to his wife, Cori Murphy.

Negligence and Past Troubles with Foundation Food Group

Foundation Food Group was known as Prime Pak Foods until a recent merger. The Law Firm of Walter Gabriel found records showing the company had a long and disturbing history of OSHA violations. Previous violations include several amputations and a multitude of fines. The most recent occurred in December 2020. That investigation is currently underway.

Thursday’s deadly incident is still under investigation. However, according to authorities, a preliminary investigation suggests a nitrogen line ruptured. A number of agencies will take part in this investigation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the State Fire Marshal’s office have already joined Hall County’s crime scene investigators at the Foundation Food Group. The United States Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board sent investigators from Washington D.C. to the Gainesville chicken processing plant.

Dangers of Liquid Nitrogen

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) describes liquid nitrogen as “non-toxic.” Although it is not poisonous but it can be deadly if oxygen deficiency is extreme. According to research from the University of Iowa, liquid nitrogen can expand up to 695 times in volume when it vaporizes and has no warning properties such as odor or color. If this happens, it can displace oxygen and cause unconsciousness or even death.

Condolences to The Victims of The Liquid Nitrogen Leak

The Law Firm of Walter Gabriel believes tragedies like this can and should be avoided.

We are shocked and saddened by the untimely passing of those who tragically died working to provide for their families. We will continue to pray for all the victims and their loved ones.

The Importance of Suing Companies at Fault

At the time of this publishing, Foundation Food Group has not released a public statement on the deaths of their employees, who gave their lives for this company – we are appalled by their silence. In tragic situations such as this incident, we believe in holding companies and all responsible parties accountable. We understand that a lawsuit will never bring back any of the victims who so tragically perished that day. However, we firmly believe lawsuits still serve great purpose. Lawsuits (1) help restore families financially so that they are well taken care of in the absence of their loved ones, (2) hold companies accountable and ensure proper measures and safety standards are enforced to prevent future tragedies, and (3) ensure families receive public acknowledgement of wrongdoing on the part of others.

The Law Firm of Walter Gabriel Will Fight for You

If you or someone you know sustained injury from another person’s negligence, contact the Law Firm of Walter Gabriel. Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department said that two of the six people who died were Mexican citizens. It is important to note the family members of the two Mexican citizens have the right to file a lawsuit on behalf of their deceased loved one. Everyone harmed in Thursday’s tragedy had the right to a safe work environment as provided by law and government regulations. The Law Firm of Walter Gabriel has a Spanish speaking staff to accommodate those who prefer to speak their native language.

We commit to helping you and your family recover financially. We also firmly believe in holding companies accountable for their negligence. Our professional staff will be with you during your grieving process and will guide you throughout the entire process.