Marion, NC – A total of 45 people were treated and released at the scene, and eight people were transported to McDowell Hospital due to carbon monoxide exposure Tuesday evening at Lake James Lodge. Emergency personnel from all over McDowell and surrounding counties responded to the incident.
At 7:24 p.m. Tuesday, emergency personnel responded to Lake James Lodge, located at 63 Lakeview Drive North, after a report of possible carbon monoxide exposure to residents and staff, according to a news release from Emergency Services Director William Kehler.
McDowell County EMS, Hankins-North Fork Fire Department and McDowell Rescue were the first to arrive and they confirmed carbon monoxide was present inside the facility. Residents tested positive for carbon monoxide after being assessed by EMS paramedics.
McDowell County EMS immediately declared a mass casualty incident and implemented specific protocols, ensuring proper resources and equipment was dispatched to assist the first arriving units, stated the news release. All available county ambulances, including medical resources on the Dobson Knob Fire, were deployed to the scene.
McDowell Emergency Management requested the mass casualty bus stationed at Asheville Fire Department to respond as well. A staging area was set up at Burnetts Landing. Personnel from Hickory Nut Gorge EMS & Rescue, who were already battling the Dobson Knob fire, responded as well.
With the assistance of over 60 personnel from all county departments including law enforcement, emergency personnel completed the initial triage process of all 53 patients in a timely manner, stated the news release. Following MCI protocols, the patients were taken to color coded areas based upon their priority where paramedics provided medical treatment.
In an effort to treat the patients onsite, McDowell County EMS medical directors Dr. Edward St. Bernard and physician assistant Steve Wilkerson were dispatched to the scene to provide medical direction and support EMS paramedics.
A total of 45 patients were treated and released on the scene, while eight patients required transport to McDowell Hospital. Hankins-North Fork Fire Department and other fire personnel conducted carbon monoxide testing inside the facility and tracked the source to a malfunctioning boiler.
The assisted living facility was ventilated and air quality levels were retested by fire personnel which showed the conditions had returned to a safe level. The boiler was shut down and a service crew called to the scene. Residents were then assisted back into the facility by Lake James Lodge staff and emergency personnel, according to the news release.
The incident on Tuesday night was one of the largest MCI events in the history of McDowell County, said Kehler. Every agency in McDowell, along with partners from surrounding counties, came together as one team to provide quality patient care in a timely manner to 53 patients. All of this occurred while maintaining our normal level of service to other citizens in the county who experienced an emergency during this event.