Hall County

Community remembers victims of plant disaster in Gainesville with prayer vigil

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Family and friends of six workers killed in a chemical leak at a Gainesville poultry plant held a prayer vigil for them Saturday afternoon.

Six people died and at least 12 were seriously injured when liquid nitrogen, which is used to freeze food coming off the line, poured into the plant. Three people remain in critical condition.

Channel 2′s Christian Jennings was at the Foundation Foods plant Saturday night, where mourners gathered for a powerful and emotional vigil.

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A few hundred people gathered outside the plant in front of a beautiful memorial set up outside.

Loved ones, family members, coworkers and friends came by to remember those killed.

Pastor after pastor took turns speaking, naming each of the victims out loud and telling the crowd that today was not about casting blame, but honoring lives lost.


Jennings talked to a friend of one of the victims, Edgar Vera Garcia, who was just 28 years old.

“You never know what will happen in the day,” she said. “That’s why I try to speak to my kids and my family. You never leave sad and mad because you never know when you will come back home.”

One GoFundMe has been established to help all of the victims’ families.

One of the victims was 45-year-old Jose DeJesus Elias-Cabrera. Family members said they never expected this to happen. An individual GoFundMe has been set up for his family.

“There’s no words for this moment,” a family member said in Spanish.

Another victim, 35-year-old Corey Murphy, was an Army veteran, father and avid horse trainer. An individual GoFundMe has been set up to support his family.

Authorities have identified the other victims as Nelly Perez-Rafael, 28, of Gainesville; Saulo Suarez-Bernal, 41, of Dawsonville and Victor Vellez , 38, of Gainesville.

“We lost our beloved Saulo. Words cannot express how sad our family is over this loss, Saulo was the greatest and kindest individual to walk this earth. God called him home and even though we miss him, we trust His plan. Rest in peace brother. We will see you again,” a GoFundMe account for Suarez-Bernal said.

Investigators believe the leak was caused by a ruptured pipe. Multiple agencies were on the scene Friday to investigate.

The first 911 call after the disaster came from plant manager Zach Hoover.

“I’ve got a person who potentially could be frozen from liquid nitrogen,” Hoover said.

“They will be looking for anything abnormal, what state things are in as far as location of different equipment,” Hoover said.

Union workers are calling for a complete investigation to prevent another disaster.

“It’s not common, let me just put it that way,” a union spokesman said. " This is what happens when a shortcut is taken. That’s what history shows us. I don’t know exactly what happened in this case.”

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