Deputy dies of liquid nitrogen inhalation during rescue at sperm bank

A Georgia sheriff’s deputy survived being shot in the face in 2004, but died on Sunday after inhaling liquid nitrogen fumes as he tried to rescue a worker inside a sperm bank.

Sgt. Greg Meagher, 57, of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, was one of four deputies who responded to an alarm at Xytex Corporation in Augusta, where a female worker was unconscious inside, reported the Augusta Chronicle. The deputies entered the building, where they were overcome by the toxic fumes.

The three other deputies were able to escape the fumes, but were taken to an area hospital for treatment of shortness of breath. Firefighters found Meagher and the unidentified Xytex employee unresponsive inside the building.

The Chronicle reported that both were taken to Augusta University Medical Center, where Meagher was pronounced dead. The woman's condition was not immediately available.

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The three injured deputies were expected to recover completely, the newspaper reported.

Xytex, which provides storage of sperm, as well as preservation of tissue and umbilical cord blood, released a statement on Monday in which the company described the accident as a liquid nitrogen pressure surge, WRDW in Augusta reported.

"We would like to thank the first responders for their prompt response and assistance at our facility," the company said in the statement obtained by the news station. "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.

The company’s storage tanks remained operational throughout the emergency and there was no damage to any of the tissue stored at the facility, the statement said.

Meagher was a 33-year veteran of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. A former drug investigator, he was shot in the face in 2001 while assisting federal agents in a Burke County drug sting.

According to the Chronicle, Meagher had several commendations, including one for assisting the Department of Justice in 1996 during an undercover investigation of a deputy U.S. marshal.

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