Airgas USA fined more than $300K in deadly Augusta gas leak

ATLANTA - A company has been fined more than $300,000 for its role in a deadly incident earlier this year at an Augusta, Ga., sperm bank.

In a statement, state Insurance and Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens said Airgas USA was fined $302,500 for over-pressurizing a bulk storage tank at Xytek Crvo International.

On Feb. 9, 2017, Xytex employee Anita Wylds and Richmond County Sheriff’s Deputy Sergeant Greg Meagher responded to an alarm at the facility. Shortly after entering the building, Wylds fell unconscious and was severely injured from exposure to hypothermia hazards.

Sgt. Meagher entered the building in search of Wylds but also collapsed moments later. He later died from environmental suffocation.

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“This industrial gas leak may have been avoided if the proper servicing decal had been affixed to the bulk storage tank,” Hudgens said. “Either an employee not following through with the proper procedures or a lack of communication between the two companies led to this tragic event.” 

Here are the findings from the state's investigation: 

  • The investigation revealed that on Dec. 13, 2016, Airgas USA installed a 3,000-gallon bulk storage tank at Xytex Cryo International for the storing and dispensing of liquid nitrogen.
  • On Dec. 22, a Xytex employee attempted to cool cryogenic freezers with the liquid nitrogen but terminated the action when relief devices began discharging the nitrogen inside the freezer room.
  • On Jan. 24, an Airgas USA service manager determined that the tank would require recalibration from 30 psi to approximately 20 psi, below the setting of Xytex’s cryogenic cooling system. The service manager indicated to Xytex employees that the tank’s servicing instruction decal which displayed 30 psi would be updated to reflect the new pressure fill setting.
  • On Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, a tanker truck from Airgas USA arrived at the Xytex facility delivering liquid nitrogen. The driver connected the discharge hose from the truck to the storage tank and began to fill as instructed by the tank’s servicing decal. The system became over-pressurized and started leaking liquid nitrogen gas inside the building.  State inspectors determined that Airgas USA had failed to update the decal to the new pressure fill setting.  

© 2017 WXIA-TV


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