47 sickened at Cedar Lake school

February 26, 2010 2:53:12 PM PST
Nearly 50 students and adults were rushed to the hospital Friday after they were sickened by fumes at their school in northwest Indiana.Ambulances from several Indiana communities helped transport the victims for treatment from Hanover Central high school in Cedar Lake, Ind.

By late morning, classes were cancelled, and the remaining students were sent home.

Firefighters wrapped up their work at the school late Friday afternoon. They concluded that a small gas leak in a home economics room was to blame for sending 47 people to the hospital.

Friday morning, teachers and students began to notice an odor described by some as a powerful dose of car exhaust. Some of the students became light-headed and nauseous and were relocated to the gym, as eight ambulances were sent to the school.

"I went down there, and I started puking and got taken away on a stretcher. I was on oxygen for about an hour. They took blood tests that came back negative," said student Jessica Dickerson.

All of the sickened student and teachers had similar symptoms of nausea and dizziness. Other students were sent home, and the school closed as firefighters went through the building with gas detection meters, finding ultimately a low level of natural gas. They later found a slight leak in a connection value to a stove in a home economics room.

"That room is in the area of the mechanical area, which is where the air intake is for the school, and there is a possibility it could have spread to the other rooms by the exhaust system," said Todd Wilkening, Cedar Lake fire chief.

All 47 people who were sent to hospitals were released after treatment.

The leaky valve has been fixed, and school will reopen Monday.

However, because school was canceled Friday, a boy's basketball game scheduled for Friday night also was canceled.