UPDATE | Tanks did not cause chemical leak at Xytex, investigators say

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Monday, Feb. 13, 2017

Xytex Leak - 2.5.17 /Augusta, GA.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- New details are being released about the liquid nitrogen leak at the Xytex Corporation last week.

Investigators say the tanks did not cause the chemical leak, they believe there was a malfunction with the system. The tanks supply nitrogen to the system, but the State Fire Marshal does not regulate the system.

Investigators say the alarm at Xytex went off a total of three times the day of the accident, 1:43pm, 3:26pm, and 3:44pm. Xytex reported the alarm went off at 3:26pm in their news release.

The state fire marshal cited Xytex and Airgas on Tuesday last week for violations involving the liquid nitrogen tank that caused the deadly leak. Deputy State Fire Marshal Chris Stephen returned to Xytex the next day with another citation for a second tank.

The leak killed Richmond County Sgt. Greg Meagher, and put three additional deputies and Anita Wylds, a Xytex worker, in the hospital.

Xytex is still prohibited from using the tanks. Fire Marshal's office and OSHA are still investigating the incident.



Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017

11:00 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The blue ribbon, tied to honor the life of Richmond County Sergeant Greg Meagher, was not the only pop of color at the center of attention outside Xytex Wednesday.

The state fire marshal cited Xytex and Airgas on Tuesday for violations involving the liquid nitrogen tank that caused the deadly leak. Deputy State Fire Marshal Chris Stephen returned to Xytex the next day with another citation for a second tank.

"We are actually red tagging that tank as well," State Fire Marshal Stephens said.

The state fire marshal said Xytex told investigators the older tank had not been in operation, but when he returned to Xytex Wednesday he found the tank has been in use and without a permit.

"Even if it was a new tank installed. It would have still required an inspection, and we have found no records to indicate that tank has been inspected," State Fire Marshal Stephens said.

The state fire marshal said the two tanks have been shut down till future inspection, but the frozen human tissue remains inside the Xytex tanks.

Dr. Edward Gross is a veterinarian at Care More Animal Hospital, and he said it is very rare sperm is stored at his hospital, but it is collected and transported there for insemination.

Dr. Gross said if the sperm is not stored at the right temperature, it should be transferred to another tank that is filled with enough liquid nitrogen.

"You want to do it as soon as possible. The coolness of course slows down degradation," Dr. Gross said.

Dr. Gross said he has worked with liquid nitrogen before. He said It's typically used to store frozen sperm for long periods of time, so the hospital uses a different method.

"We just use a regular fridge. In fact it's the fridge we use for our vaccines," Dr. Gross said. "Right in the center, which is usually going to be the coldest spot."

Dr. Gross said if the tissue isn't kept in proper conditions or handled correctly, it won't survive.

"At room temperature, the sperm will not live very long," Dr. Gross said. "It will eventually die."

Dr. Gross said if the sperm begins to thaw, it can live up to one or two days.



Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017

6:00 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Xytex is now in more trouble with the State Fire Marshal after On Your Side began asking questions about a second tank at the facility.

The fire marshal cited Xytex and AirGas on Tuesday for violations involving the tank related to the deadly nitrogen leak. Sgt. Greg Meagher died after he went in to protect a worker inside Xytex and inhaled the fumes. The Xytex worker, Anita Wylds, remains in critical condition.

The state fire marshal said Xytex originally told his investigators the second tank wasn't in operation. After Xytex sent out a news release on Wednesday News 12 NBC 26 started asking questions and the fire marshal sent an investigator back out to Xytex.

The second tank did not have a permit on it, according to the fire marshal. That tank has been red tagged.

AirGas has installed both tanks at Xytex. According to the fire marshal, the supplier is responsible for getting the permit.

AirGas is a national supplier of gases with a location right here in Augusta.

The State Fire Marshal is working on a cease operations order for that second tank and it is expected to come out Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

1:50 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Xytex has said that current and future clients do not need to worry about the privately stored tissue at their Augusta facility after a cease and desist order was issued for their liquid nitrogen tank after a deadly leak.

The statement issued Wednesday afternoon said: "all privately stored tissue is safe, and our storage facilities are fully operational.

We are confident in the continued quality, and future disposition, of all client samples. We assure clients the same high quality they have come to expect, and continue to maintain stored tissue cells at temperatures required to meet industry quality standards. We will continue to safely and effectively monitor all storage, and assist our clients in their fertility journey.

While the State Fire Marshal has issued a cessation order on one piece of equipment, Xytex’s storage capabilities are fully functional and we will continue to cooperate in the ongoing investigation. "

12 p.m.
A Xytex worker that was saved by a fallen Richmond County deputy is still in critical condition at an Augusta hospital.

Anita Wylds went in on Sunday to try and shut off the valve to a liquid nitrogen tank, before collapsing. Sgt. Greg Meagher went into the building, where investigators say he inhaled the fumes and died while trying to protect Wylds.

For now the tanks will stay off while the state investigates. It's not clear how long that investigation will take, and its still not clear what caused the leak. Xytex did not have a permit inspection to start using the Airgas tank. Now, the State Department of Insurance is citing them and the Nitrogen tank maker, Airgas.



News 12 NBC 26 at 11:00 / Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- At around 3:50 Sunday afternoon, fire crews were on their way to Xytex. Deputies were already there, responding to the building for the 57th time in three years.

39 of those calls were welfare checks. They were called out once on an administrative call, another time for domestic violence, seven times for suspicious activity, once for theft, and five unknown calls. Another three calls were alarm calls.

The same call deputies were responding to on Sunday. Cell phone video shows a white cloud pooling out from under the door. An employee, Anita Wylds, went in to try and shut off the valve, then collapsing inside.

It turns out Xytex did not have a permit inspection to start using the Airgas tank. Now, the State Department of Insurance is citing them and the Nitrogen tank maker, Airgas. They are not allowed to use the tanks until they correct the system and the commissioner re-inspects it.

Xytex and Airgas got two citations. One, because an inspector has to check all new and used pressure vessels installed. The company installing it is supposed to tell the state when to check it. The second citation is because all the tanks have to be checked every year.

So for now the tanks will stay off while the state investigates. It's not clear how long that investigation will take, but it started on Sunday.

Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017

4:10 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The State Fire Commissioner has issued cease and desist orders to company involved in deadly liquid nitrogen leak.

The orders were issued to Xytex Corp Tuesday morning. The order states the Airgas Liquid Nitrogen tank was utilized without an installation permit inspection, according to Glenn Allen with the Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner.

The citations are against Xytex and AirGas telling them to stop using nitrogen tanks at their Augusta facility until the Commissioner’s staff can come and inspect them. Glenn Allen with the Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner said Xytex is not allowed to use these nitrogen tanks until they have corrected the system and it has been re-inspected by the Commissioner.

It's unclear what caused the leak at this time. There is no timeline on finding out what caused the leaks and state fire investigators have been in and out at Xytex since Sunday. They will continue to be in and out investigating, Allen said.

Allen has said that Xytex is allowed to use whatever nitrogen is already in their system but cannot use the tanks and cannot receive new deliveries. When the liquid nitrogen runs out, they cannot use any more from the tanks.

1:42 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The funeral and visitation has been set for the Richmond County deputy killed after responding to an alarm at Xytex over the weekend.

The family of Sgt. Greg Meagher will receive friends and visitors at King Funeral Home, 124 Davis Road in Martinez, from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9.

Sgt. Greg Meagher will be laid to rest on Friday, Feb. 10 at noon at the Most Holy Trinity on Telfair Street.

After the service, a procession will leave the church and go to Westover Cemetery for interment.

Sgt. Meagher responded to Xytex on Sunday afternoon after the building experienced a liquid nitrogen pressure surge. Investigators say he inhaled the fumes and died while trying to protect a worker inside. That worker, Anita Wylds, remains in critical condition in an Augusta hospital.


Monday, Feb. 6, 2017

1:30 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Xytex has released a statement following a liquid nitrogen leak that turned deadly Sunday afternoon.

The release reads as follows:
Yesterday afternoon at our Augusta storage facility, we experienced a liquid nitrogen pressure surge just after 3:00 p.m. We would like to thank the first responders for their prompt response and assistance at our facility. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Sgt. Greg Meagher, his fellow deputies and our injured employee. We continue to cooperate with the authorities in the ongoing investigation of what occurred. All our cryostorage tanks are currently operational, and there was no damage to any of the tissue stored at our Augusta location. Due to privacy concerns, we are not releasing any information on our injured employee.

Sgt. Greg Meagher responded to a burglar alarm at Xytex when investigators believe he inhaled liquid nitrogen in the air and died, according to the Augusta Fire Department.

Later Monday afternoon, the Xytex worker, Anita Wylds was identified and the hospital said she was in critical condition.

Three other deputies, Michael Woodard, Tiffany Justice, and Chris Hill all complained of difficulty breathing and were taken to the hospital. They are expected to be okay.

Officials said Sgt. Greg Meagher entered the building in an attempt to rescue an employee. Fire crews later entered the building with protective gear and brought the deputy out of the building.

10:27 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Three deputies who responded to the Xytex facility before firefighters arrived have been identified.

The other deputies, Michael Woodard, Tiffany Justice, and Chris Hill all complained of difficulty breathing and were taken to the hospital. They are expected to be okay.

Officials say Sgt. Greg Meagher entered the building in an attempt to rescue an employee. They believe he inhaled liquid nitrogen, which killed him. Fire crews later entered the building with protective gear and brought the deputy out of the building.



9:52 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Richmond County Sheriff's Office will hold a news conference on Monday, one day after a Richmond County deputy died in the line of duty from chemicals while trying to rescue a Xytex worker.

Sheriff Richard Roundtree will be speaking at 2:30 p.m. on the death of Sergeant Greg Meagher. News 12 NBC 26 will be there and will bring you the latest.

Officials say Meagher entered the building in an attempt to rescue an employee. They believe he inhaled liquid nitrogen.

Fire crews later entered the building with protective gear and brought the deputy out of the building. An autopsy is being performed in Atlanta, the coroner says the results will likely take a few weeks because of the toxicology tests that need to be run.



Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017

7:35 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The Richmond County Coroner says Sgt. Greg Meagher was trying to rescue a Xytex worker when he was overcome by chemicals.

The coroner reports Sgt. Meagher, 57, was pronounced dead at 4:33 Sunday afternoon at Augusta University Medical Center.

Officials say Meagher entered the building in an attempt to rescue an employee. They believe he inhaled liquid nitrogen.

Fire crews later entered the building with protective gear and brought the deputy out of the building.

Sgt. Meagher is being brought to Atlanta for an autopsy that will take place tomorrow. The coroner says the results will likely take a few weeks because of the toxicology tests that need to be run.



5:54 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Two people were found inside the Xytex Corporation facility after ingesting liquid nitrogen, according to an Augusta Fire Department release.

Firefighters were called to the scene at approximately 3:51 p.m., the release states. Firefighters found Richmond County Deputy Greg Meagher unresponsive as well as a female Xytex employee. Both were taken to the hospital. Before firefighters arrived, three deputies were at the Xytex facility and complained of difficulty breathing. They were all taken to the hospital.

Augusta Fire Department Hazmat crews shut off liquid nitrogen tanks. However, that has not been ruled as the cause of the accident. No firefighters were injured.

According to their website, Xytex is a company that does cryopreservation for cells and tissues.

They have locations in Augusta, Atlanta, and New Jersey. They store a number of different specimens including cord blood, embryo, eggs, ovarian tissue, and sperm.



3:42 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Investigators say one deputy has died after inhaling an unknown chemical substance at Xytex Corporation in Augusta.

Investigators say Sgt. Greg Meagher responded to an alarm at the building off Emmett Street at 3:26 Sunday afternoon.

Deputies say he inhaled an unknown chemical substance and died from his injuries.

The Richmond County Sheriff's Office says they will release more information once it is available.

News 12 NBC 26 has a crew on the scene. Check back for updates.