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How Mexican consulate is assisting families of 5 killed in Foundation Food Group nitrogen leak
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Two Hall County Firefighters enter a back door Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, at Foundation Food Group. A day earlier six people were killed following a liquid nitrogen leak at the plant. - photo by Scott Rogers

The Consulate General of Mexico in Atlanta said it is assisting families affected by the Jan. 28 nitrogen leak at a Gainesville food processing plant.

Six people were killed following the leak at Foundation Food Group, formerly known as Prime Pak, on Memorial Drive in Gainesville.

The consul general said five of the six people who died were of Mexican nationality.

Consul General of Mexico in Atlanta Javier Diaz de Leon said Thursday, Feb. 4. they have reached out to all five families of the deceased to offer support.

Two families have requested assistance to bring the remains back to Mexico, which is underway, Diaz de Leon said.

“We knew very well that this was something that unfortunately would probably involve a lot of Mexican nationals because we know very well the population that works at the poultry plants in that city and how many of them are Mexican nationals,” he said. “We were very alarmed about it, and that’s why we immediately reached out.”

Diaz de Leon said two families also were asking for help requesting humanitarian parole, a process where family members could enter the United States to attend funeral services.

A couple of requests were submitted with three to four people each, but the requests were denied by federal officials, Diaz de Leon said.

“We do know that the approval of these sort of waivers has been really very restricted, of course, since the pandemic started,” the consul general said, adding that officials often do not provide a specific reason for denying these requests.

The Times was unable to confirm with U.S. custom officials information concerning the humanitarian parole.

The consul general said the organization has already participated in a few clinics to inform people of their rights.

“In coordination with nonprofit organizations and lawyers, the Consulate General will continue to conduct information clinics in the Gainesville area, disseminate workers’ rights (information) and address any doubts that the Mexican population might have about labor issues,” according to a statement from the consulate. “The Ministry of Relations expresses its condolences to the families of the victims and will remain vigilant with the conduct of the investigation being carried out by local authorities.”

Diaz de Leon said it was important for people to know that “their immigration status should not and must not be a factor for them to be able to talk to authorities.