6 People Dead, 12 Hospitalized in Georgia Following Liquid Nitrogen Leak at Poultry Plant

A liquid nitrogen leak at a poultry processing plant in Georgia has left six workers dead and a dozen more injured.

The incident occurred at the Foundation Food Group poultry processing plant in Gainesville, Georgia, on Thursday, Hall County Fire Services Division Chief Zachary Brackett tells PEOPLE.

While there was no explosion, a line that was carrying liquid nitrogen ruptured. How the line ruptured remains under investigation, Brackett says.

Fire crews were called to the plant shortly after 10 a.m., Brackett says, and the situation was quickly updated to a Hazardous Materials response. First responders found several employees experiencing medical emergencies and five people dead on the scene.

Brackett says that 130 people at the plant were evacuated and taken to a nearby church for medical evaluation.

Northeast Georgia Health System's Director of Public Relations, Sean Couch, said that 12 people were taken to the hospital for treatment. One of those people has since died, bringing the death toll up to six.

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Seven people have already been treated and released from the hospital, Couch said in an email update obtained by PEOPLE, one person remains hospitalized in fair condition and three are in critical condition.

"Preliminary indications are that a nitrogen line ruptured inside the facility," said Foundation Food Group's vice president of human resources, Nicholas Ancrum, in a statement obtained by the New York Times.

"Those lost today include maintenance, supervisory and management team members," he 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."

Foundation Food Group acquired the plant, which was formerly called Prime Pak Foods, just earlier this month.

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"Foundation Food Group takes workplace safety very seriously, and works constantly to adopt and implement the most effective safety programs available to the industry," Ancrum said. "Until this investigation is completed, we cannot say with confidence precisely how this accident occurred."

Foundation Food Group did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment Thursday.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp called the incident a "tragedy" in a statement Thursday.

"Our hearts are broken hearing about the tragedy that took place at Prime Pak Foods," Kemp said, CNN reported. "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."

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