Lawsuit filed on behalf of sheriff’s deputy who died trying to save Xytex employee

A lawsuit was filed Thursday on behalf of the children of Richmond County Sgt. Greg Meagher who died in February while trying to save an Xytex employee.

 

The Richmond County Superior Court lawsuit was filed against Xytex Tissue Services, Airgas USA LLC, Chart Industries Inc., and Carolina Piping Services on behalf of Lindsey, Mary and Emma Meagher. The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

The afternoon of Feb. 5, Meagher and other officers responded to a burglary alarm at Xytex, a sperm bank, at 1100 Emmitt St. When Meagher arrived at 3:47 p.m. he advised “the doors are freezing due to liquid fumes and nitrogen coming under the door,” according to 911 logs of the incident.

Xytex employee Anita Wylds also responded to the alarm in the shipping warehouse. Following the company’s procedure, she entered to turn off valves in the advent of an emergency, as liquid nitrogen was used to store specimens. Wylds was overcome by the gas which had replaced the oxygen in the building. Meagher went in to try to save her and suffocated. Wylds survived but was severely injured.

According to the lawsuit, Xytex began building a shipping warehouse in June 2016. Chart Industries and Carolina Piping Services designed and fabricated the pipes, valves and connections from Airgas’s liquid nitrogen hold tanks to Xytex’s freezers, according to the lawsuit. Xytex failed to put any warning labels on the building noting the use of hazardous gas, and Xytex failed to insulate piping which cut its cost but increased the danger to people in the event of a spill, the lawsuit alleges.

On Jan. 24, Airgas delivered a fourth freezer and performed an inspection. The Airgas employees discovered the tank’s pressure was set at 30 pounds per square inch but the relief valves were set at 22 pounds per square inch. According to the lawsuit, if connected it would cause the pressure relief valves to open and spill liquid nitrogen. The Airgas employees recalibrated the tank to 20 pounds per square inch. But the tank decal wasn’t changed to instruct gas delivery employees on the proper pressure for the tank.

On Feb. 5, an Airgas deliveryman from Airgas Merchant Gases filled the tank with 1,744 gallons of liquid nitrogen, leaving the tank pressurized at 30 pounds per square inch. According to the lawsuit, within minutes the pressure relief valves began to open and spill liquid nitrogen gases.

The lawsuit alleges the defendants’ negligence led to the death of 57-year-old Meagher.

On Aug. 16, the Georgia Department of Insurance and Safety Fire fined Airgas a total of $300,000 for repeatedly failing to have tanks re-inspected and failing to change the decal on tanks. The Occupational Safety and Health Administrator fined Xytex $30,000 over the lack of relief values.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.

 

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