More than 80 children were sent to four hospitals around Indianapolis Thursday after suffering toxic effects at a downtown public swimming pool. The incident happened in the afternoon under temperatures as high as 90-degrees.
Indy Star reports officials say a wrong combination of chemicals at the Garfield Park Pool led to the sickness. There about 200 people at the swimming pool. When several children began showing toxic effects, including coughing and vomiting, parents rushed frantically to remove their children from the pool. Some parents took their children to showers. Others used clothing to cover their faces.
According to Shari Patton, a parent who was at the pool with her children, the lifeguard suddenly began yelling: "Get out of the pool! Get out of the pool" as soon as signs of toxic effects were noticed. Patton said: "I didn’t know what was going on." She said she yanked her children out of the water immediately and rushed them to the shower room to rinse. Other swimmers rushed out of the pool and grabbed shirts, towels and other items of clothing to cover their faces and shield themselves from the effects of the gas odor.
Daily Mail reports that most of the victims were children who complained of several symptoms that included difficulty in breathing, nausea and eye irritation. A mother returned to the pool to find her son's eyes swollen shut and oozing. Yahoo News! reports the child had refused medical help, but his mother was furious that the medical personnel had not insisted that he should receive medical attention. Indy Star reports she said: “I think it’s ridiculous. I don’t see any reason why it happened. I don’t understand how it happened. That’s just crazy.”
Paramedics who rushed to the scene set up a triage area, Indy Star reports.They treated casualties at the scene of the incident while others in more serious condition were sent to the emergency room.
Daily Mail reports that one of the victims, three-year-old Connor Binegar, was in critical condition. Connor's grandmother told WishTV: "He just went limp. He was having trouble breathing, poor thing. They’ve got him all hooked up, with oxygen and IVs."
Daily Mail reports Connor was sent to the intensive care at Methodist Hospital on Thursday evening. He had spent hours in the pool with his dad and sister.
WishTV reports that Connor's family owns a swimming pool supplies business. His Grandma, said: "Anyone that's ever dealt with chemicals should know you don't mix them."
How the noxious mixture came about was not certain, but Lt. Derrick Sayles of the Indianapolis Fire Department said the pool operator was among those treated. Sayles said the source seems to have been an improper use of a pool cleaning chemical called ACID Magic.
Sayles, according to Indy Star, said that the machine that pumps chemicals into the pool was shut down and restarted. As it started, the proportions of ACID Magic, sodium and water flowing into the pool was wrong.
WishTV reports that the chemical components of the preparations under investigation are muriatic acid, used to clean the pool, and sodium hypochlorite (bleach).
Dr James Mowry, director of the Indiana Poison Control Center at IU Health Methodist Hospital, said the chemical mixture produced chlorine gas which could be lethal in high concentrations. According to Dr. Mowry, the mixture produced chlorine gas in concentrations high enough to cause irritation to eyes and lungs and induce vomiting. Mowry explained that in higher concentrations, chlorine can be lethal. Chlorine gas was used a chemical weapon in World War I. The gas, also known as bertholite, was first used as a chemical weapon in World War I by the Germans during the Second Battle of Ypres on April 22, 1915.
The Marion County Health Department is investigating the incident. The authorities will also check other city pools to ensure they are not exposing swimmers to risks of similar toxic effects.
WishTV reports Grandma Binegar said that little Conner Binegar was getting better. She said: “He is doing better now, but they're still watching him really close.”
As of Thursday, there were still five patients at IU Health Methodist Hospital and seven patients at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, WishTV reports. All of the patients were reportedly in stable condition.
The pool will remain closed until health officials have concluded investigations.