Bonnie Washuk, Staff Writer Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 12:53 pm
LEWISTON — Thursday was a bad air day at Bernard’s School of Hair Fashion on Lisbon Street. A carbon monoxide leak from a vehicle running in a garage at the end of the building resulted in 11 people going to the hospital, Lewiston Fire Department Capt. Wallace Veilleux said.
The building was evacuated and closed, and students were sent home for the day. The school is expected to reopen Friday.
“Three people were transported by ambulance. Another eight drove themselves to the hospital,” Veilleux said.
A report from Central Maine Medical Center confirmed patients had been exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide, officials said. The illnesses were not life-threatening, Don Wormell of United Ambulance Services said.
Students became sick during the morning and by 11 a.m. there were numerous firetrucks and ambulances in the parking lot and people standing outside waiting for rides.
Veilleux said firefighters were in the building monitoring the air quality after people began feeling sick.
Lorraine Gadway, director of Bernard’s, said she was called after students complained of headaches and throat issues. She said she thought that the bad air came from the garage.
She was right.
The hospital’s report that patients had been exposed to carbon monoxide “settles it for us,” Veilleux said. “We got a very isolated area of high readings.
“We’ve determined that it was vehicle exhaust from a garage out back,” he said. The garage is attached to the building. The vehicle was running and parked in front of overhead door. “Its exhaust pointed at the building where the fresh air intake is for their hot-air system,” Veilleux said. “It’s a very old system. We’re looking at it for code compliance.”
The fresh air intake is close to the ground, where there’s nearby parking, the captain said. “They’re looking at how to cover the air intake,” he said.
When there’s a carbon monoxide leak, Veilleux said “there’s no odor. You never smell it.”
Problem: vehicle exhaust