The fatal accident occurred at the Xytex Corporation building on Emmett Street at around 3:26 p.m. local time. Sheriff’s deputy officers responded to a burglar alarm at the company, and Sgt. Greg Meagher entered the building to attempt a rescue of a female employee who was unconscious.
Firefighters arrived at the scene minutes later to find Sgt. Meagher and the female Xytex employee unresponsive inside the facility. WRDW reports that Sgt. Meagher and the employee were overcome after inhaling liquid nitrogen that had leaked from their storage tanks. The two were transported to Augusta University Medical Center for treatment.
WRDW reports that Sgt. Meagher was pronounced dead at the hospital at 4:33 p.m. on Sunday. Three other deputies were also hospitalized with complaints of breathing difficulties. These officers are expected to recover. The injured worker for Xytex, Anita Wylds, is currently in critical condition at the hospital.
In a statement, Xytex says they experienced a liquid nitrogen pressure surge, causing the harmful chemical to leak into the air. Investigators believe the inhalation of the deadly chemical lead to the officer’s death.
According to WRDW, it is unclear what caused the chemical leak to occur, but the Georgia State Fire Commissioner has issued a cease and desist order to Xytex, prohibiting them from using nitrogen tanks at their facility until they can be inspected. The Office of Insurance and Safety says the liquid nitrogen was used without an installation permit.
The following information regarding workplace accidents is provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):