40 children hospitalized after chemical spill at YMCA

A 911 caller was concerned by how authorities were handling the situation; she said the children were being put on buses while "coughing and hacking"

By Virginia Bridges
The Herald-Sun

DURHAM, N.C. — A caller to 911 expressed concern about how officials responded Wednesday afternoon to a chemical smell at the Downtown YMCA.

“They just took a bunch of kids from the Y and put them on buses while they were coughing and hacking. And the chlorine leak is so strong, the pool has been closed. There is a sign up, but it is so strong downstairs that it is choking people,” said the caller, who described the kids as in “duress.” “I said s--- they don’t need to take these kids out of here, they need to get somebody over here to look at them all.”

The 911 dispatcher said there had been a previous call about someone having breathing difficulty, but they didn’t have any idea about a hazardous material situation.

“So I am updating that call, and they are going to get an emergency unit in route,” the dispatcher said.

Initially, a YMCA official called 911 around 2:43 p.m. and reported a 33-year-old lifeguard with asthma experiencing shortness of breath and having trouble breathing, according to the 911 calls.

Forty-three people — 40 of them children between the ages of 6 and 12 — were taken to hospitals after a noxious spill Wednesday afternoon at the Downtown Durham YMCA.

Conditions of six children in “serious but non-life-threatening” condition Wednesday were determined to have improved after emergency room examination, said Durham County Emergency Medical Services Assistant Chief Brandon Mitchell around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

A disinfecting chemical compound, sodium hypochlorite, spilled at the facility's indoor pool and closed the YMCA complex shortly after 3 p.m.

Sodium hypochlorite is a common disinfectant frequently used in the Downtown Y’s indoor swimming pool.

A YMCA phone recording says the facility will open at noon today, Aug. 3, but the pool will remain closed.

Copyright 2017 The Herald-Sun

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