HALL COUNTY, Ga. — At least six people died and several others were injured Thursday morning following a chemical leak at a food processing plant in Hall County, WSB-TV reported.
Officials said the liquid nitrogen leak, which was initially reported as an explosion, happened around 10 a.m. at Prime Pak Foods and prompted the evacuations of at least 130 people, according to WSB.
At a news conference Thursday afternoon, authorities said five people died at the plant. One of the 10 people who were taken to the hospital later died, raising the death toll to six, WSB reported.
Hall County Fire Department Division Chief Zach Brackett said responding officials 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,” according to The Associated Press.
Three people were taken to a hospital in critical condition and five people were in fair condition after the leak, health officials with the Northeast Georgia Health System told told WSB. The condition of the ninth person was not immediately known, the news station reported. Among those injured were also three Gainesville firefighters and a firefighter from Hall County.
It was not immediately clear what caused the chemical leak. The AP reported that liquid nitrogen is sometimes used on refrigeration systems used by poultry plants like Prime Pak Foods.
“It was a leak of unknown cause that has occurred in the system here,” Brackett said on Thursday. “We still have a lot of information we’re trying to gather from the scene.”
Officials with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Georgia’s fire marshal are investigating the cause of the chemical leak, according to the AP.
Prime Pak Foods merged into Foundation Food Group, a company that takes raw chicken and processes it into products like chicken fingers and individual chicken cuts for restaurants and food service operations. The company’s CEO did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Gainesville is the center of Georgia’s poultry industry, which is the nation’s largest, with thousands of employees working for multiple processing plants.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Cox Media Group