Federal officials have launched a safety investigation after a local deputy sheriff was killed at a Georgia sperm bank. Richmond County Sgt. Greg Meagher died after apparently inhaling leaking liquid nitrogen while trying to save a worker.
The 57-year-old had raced into the Augusta Xytex sperm bank twice on Sunday after an emergency phone call report that a worker was in distress, authorities said. He was attempting to aid employee Anita Wiles, who was unresponsive, when Meagher was apparently overcome by a leak of liquid nitrogen, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported. An autopsy is pending. Wiles was in critical condition at a local hospital Monday night, authorities confirmed.
A hazardous materials team responded and shut off two liquid nitrogen tanks at the facility.
Liquid nitrogen, used to freeze sperm donations, quickly turns into a gas once released into the air, displacing oxygen. Victims are asphyxiated.
“They were actually pumping him, like giving him mouth” to mouth, a sperm bank neighbor told WSBTV. “It was sad to see something like that.”
Three other deputies who responded to the scene were treated for breathing difficulties at a local hospital and released.
Colleagues and friends paid tribute to Meagher, whom they hailed as a hero. His patrol car, parked in nearby Daniel Village, was covered in flowers and notes in a memorial tribute. He was an “awesome man, awesome friend, father, community citizen,” friend Debbie Smith told WRDW TV. “You just don’t find a better man than that.”
He was a 33-year veteran of the force, who survived being shot in the face in 2004 while assisting federal agents in a drug bust.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Sgt. Greg Meagher, his fellow deputies and our injured employee,” the company said in a statement.
Investigators from the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration were on the scene Monday, NBC reported.