Mischief stirs pepper mace scare at market

September 17, 1995|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

It was a store manager's nightmare -- customer after customer developing peculiar symptoms for no apparent reason. That was the case at the Mars Supermarket Inc. at Joppa and Harford Roads in Carney about 5:15 p.m. yesterday.

"A lot of people were coughing and experiencing burning eyes," said Vince D'Anna, who was managing the store and suffered from the symptoms. "But we couldn't smell anything. That's when I called 911."

The wo-hour crisis would prove to be testimony of the havoc a boy can wreak while his mother shops.

The Baltimore County Fire Department responded with 10 medics, three fire engines (including a hazardous materials unit) and a half dozen other emergency vehicles -- about 35 emergency personnel in all.

They evacuated the 40 to 45 shoppers and searched to find the cause of the coughing and eye irritation customers and Mars' employees were experiencing. At least 16 people were treated at the scene, and one employee was taken to the hospital.

Employees and customers waited and waited to hear results of the investigation. Then:

"Apparently, it was a little boy playing with his mother's pepper mace," said fire department Lt. Roger Hutton. The news came from an employee who said he had seen the boy aimlessly assaulting the air with the mace -- irritating for the short-term, but not considered serious.

Firefighters never found the boy or his mother, and with the air clear again, the store reopened.

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