FL- By Antigone Barton, Palm Beach Post
A carbon monoxide build-up sickened more than a dozen people and forced the evacuation of 300 from the YMCA of Boca Raton Saturday morning.
At least 13 people went to area hospitals after falling ill with headaches, dizziness and nausea shortly before 10 a.m., on the busiest morning of the week at the suburban Boca Raton facility. Eight people, who were evaluated at West Boca Medical Center were released by afternoon. Five more arrived at Boca Community Hospital’s emergency room and were released by the end of the day.
The cause of the incident appeared to be a roof tarp that covered a boiler vent, fire rescue official said. The YMCA, at 6631 Palmetto Circle S., was damaged by Hurricane Wilma and is undergoing renovation.
Martha Lucia Escobar got a sudden headache shortly after arriving at the building with her family at 9:30 to watch her 15-month-old grandson’s swimming class. In the next 10 minutes, several people complained of feeling lightheaded and staff members called Palm Beach County Fire Rescue.
As officials cleared the building, people panicked, leaving keys and wallets behind as they fled, according to Escobar’s son, Alex. Some dropped immediately to the grass after stumbling from the building, “looking pretty green,” he added.
Fire Rescue officials recorded levels of carbon monoxide up to 10 times higher than what is considered safe. The highest levels were near the ceiling and not in populated areas of the Y, Fire Rescue District Chief Billy Schmidt said. But 40 to 50 people were in affected parts of the building, which houses the swimming pool, locker rooms and fitness center. Another 250 people were evacuated from elsewhere in the building, as a precaution.
“Almost everyone was refusing treatment,” Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Captain Michael Mackey said. “We were emphatic about how important it was to get evaluated.” Effects of carbon monoxide poisoning can range from dizziness, headaches and nausea to organ damage and death, Mackey said.
The building was cleared of carbon monoxide by early afternoon and will reopen Monday, a YMCA spokeswoman said.