The Thursday morning of January 28th seemed like any other, until tragedy struck in the town of Gainesville, GA, roughly 50 miles northeast of Atlanta. A liquid nitrogen leak in a food processing plant in Gainesville killed 6 people and more were immediately rushed to the hospital.
According to Zachary Brackett of Hall County Fire Services, fire crews from Hall County and Gainesville responded to a report of burns at the Foundation Foods facility around 10:12 a.m.
When units arrived, a large group of employees (about 130 workers) had been evacuated from the building. Multiple people were suffering from medical emergencies throughout the plant. Brackett said 5 people had already died by the time crews arrived on the scene.
“At least 12 people were hospitalized, including a person who died in the emergency room,” said Sean Couch, Director of Public Relations for Northeast Georgia Health System.
As of Thursday afternoon, 3 people were in critical condition and 5 were in fair condition, according to Couch. Three other patients were released upon receiving treatment for their respiratory issues. The injured parties include 3 Gainesville firefighters and 1 Hall County firefighter, all who have respiratory problems as well.
Brackett asserts there wasn’t an explosion and the leak’s cause remains under investigation.
Nicholas Ancrum, Vice President of Human Resources at Foundation Food Group, said preliminary reports indicate a nitrogen line had ruptured.
“Until this investigation is completed, we cannot say with confidence precisely how this accident occurred,” he said.
The Hall County Sheriff’s Office will be managing the leak investigation.
“Those lost today include maintenance, supervisory and management team members,” Ancrum said. “Every team member is equally important to us and our hearts go out to their families and communities who have suffered such a devastating loss.”
He added his condolences, saying:
“Our hearts are broken hearing about the tragedy that took place at Prime Pak Foods. Marty, the girls, and I ask all Georgians to join us in praying for the families facing a terrible loss and the other employees who are receiving medical care. May God be a hand of peace, comfort, and healing in the days ahead.”
At Gerber & Holder Law, our hearts go out to the families reeling from their loss, and we are eager to learn how and why this leak occurred. The surviving families and injured workers deserve answers and justice.
Catastrophic injuries in the workplace
An incident of this nature is more than just a typical injury on the job. With such a traumatic event, the injuries are likely to be more severe and have more long-lasting effects. If an injury prohibits you from returning to work, it may be classified as a “catastrophic” injury.
Georgia law (O.C.G.A. 34-9-200.1(g)) defines a catastrophic injury as one of the following injuries that occurs in the scope and course of employment:
- Spinal cord injury involving severe paralysis of an arm, a leg, or the trunk
- Amputation of an arm, a hand, a foot, or a leg involving the effective loss of use of that appendage
- Traumatic brain or closed head injury
- Second or third degree burns over 25 percent of the body as a whole, or third degree burns to 5 percent or more of the face or hands
- Total or industrial blindness
If your injury is deemed catastrophic, you are entitled to 3 types of benefits: indemnity benefits, medical treatment and rehabilitation. However, don’t make the mistake of believing you have extra time to file because your injury is so severe. The statute of limitations is 2 years after the last receipt of indemnity benefits, or 1 year after your last day of medical treatment.
This can be a lot to take in when you’re also dealing with the aftermath of the traumatic event and trying to heal. This is where we come in.
At Gerber & Holder Law, our attorneys are trained and experienced in fighting for the workers’ compensation rights of injured workers across the state of Georgia—from Columbus to Atlanta to Athens to Gainesville. We will be right there with you through every step of filing your claim, making sure you receive the full benefits that you deserve.