9 students in Eldersburg treated for breathing fumes

Regional

October 11, 2002|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,SUN STAFF

Nine students at Liberty High School in Eldersburg were taken to area hospitals yesterday morning after natural gas fumes got into the ventilation system near the school's science department, authorities said.

The students were treated for shortness of breath and breathing problems, "all mild in nature," said Teresa Fletcher, spokeswoman for Carroll County General Hospital, where eight students were taken. One student was taken to Northwest Hospital Center. All were released by 1 p.m., authorities said.

Officials suspect that gas entered the ventilation system after a gas line was purged that morning in the science rooms where Bunsen burners are used, said Gregory Eckles, director of Carroll County high schools.

Sykesville-Freedom District Fire Department Chief Bobby Ray Chesney said, "Bunsen burners use natural gas, and you have to flush the lines. And somehow, with the high humidity, the gas came back into the school through the ventilation system."

Firefighters were called to the Eldersburg school shortly before 10:30 a.m., and immediately called for additional ambulances. Five ambulances - from volunteer fire companies in Sykesville, Gamber, Winfield and Reese and West Friendship in Howard County - took the students to the two hospitals.

Ashley Trotman, a 16-year-old junior, said she and other students noticed a burning smell in a classroom near the science department.

"I got a headache and started feeling nauseated, and then I went out in the hallway and it was worse," she said. "I got to my next class and the teacher sent us outside to get some fresh air, then the ambulances came and took us to the hospital."

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