70 hospitalized after chlorine incident at swimming pool in B.C. Interior

WILLIAMS LAKE, B.C. — It was supposed to be a busy day at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex where dozens of kids were getting ready for a swim meet Sunday morning when suddenly they started smelling “something weird.”

WILLIAMS LAKE, B.C. — It was supposed to be a busy day at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex where dozens of kids were getting ready for a swim meet Sunday morning when suddenly they started smelling “something weird.”

The fumes, caused by what authorities called “a chlorine incident”, forced the evacuation of the complex in Williams Lake, B.C., and sent 70 people to hospital, the majority of them children.

“People just said ’you’ve got to get out,” said Abbi Taylor, a 17-year-old swim coach who was there.

She said the kids, who were mostly under the age of 12, were in the pool at the time, warming up for the meet. A hockey game was also going on in the complex.

Taylor said a “wall of people” began running towards the door after the alert was given.

The children, many still wearing wet bathing suits, were ushered to the adjacent ice arena before the whole building was evacuated and ambulances arrived.

“It was pretty scary seeing like eight-year-olds with oxygen masks on and stuff,” Taylor said. “It was scary.”

So used is Taylor to the smell of chlorine that she at first didn’t think the chemical was the problem.

“But then it started to smell a lot, and a lot and a lot. And I was like, ’It kind of smelled weird.’ But I just didn’t really think too much about it.”

Meantime, pool staff trying to solve the problem were coughing and lifeguards were trying to keep people calm, she said.

Allison Ruault, health-services administrator at Cariboo Memorial Hospital, said some patients arrived by ambulance and some by private vehicle.

She said 45 children and 25 adults were treated. Most of the have been released, but two people, an adult from Williams Lake and a child, have been admitted for the night, Ruault said.

Angela Swyers said the child was her son, eight-year-old Billy Swyers.

“He’s showing signs in his lungs that the doctors aren’t happy with,” she said. “So just as a precautionary, they are keeping him overnight, giving him some antibiotics, and making sure he’s OK before they send him home.”

Swyers said she and Billy were sitting on the bleachers when she began to smell fumes in the air and everybody ran out of the pool.

Many of the children were coughing heavily, she added.

At the hospital, Billy was placed on a ventilator and given medication, she said, noting doctors also performed blood work and an X-ray.

“I just want to make sure he’s better,” said Angela. “So we’ll do whatever we can to get him healthy and then go home.”

Investigators don’t know what caused “the chlorine incident”, but city spokesman Ken MacInnis said the pool uses chlorine gas, not liquid chlorine, and dispenses it by computer.

Chlorine is used to sanitize pool water, but in high concentrations, particularly once it’s airborne, the gas can turn toxic. Some of the symptoms include a burning sensation in the eyes and mouth and difficulty with breathing.

Ruault said the day proved to be busy for the hospital, which is usually staffed by two nurses and a doctor on a Sunday.

“Typically in a day, in a 24 hour period, we would see 50 to 60 people,” she added, noting the hospital had to call in extra staff to deal with the influx of patients.

“In that roughly three-hour period we saw more than we would see in a 24-hour period.”

Just Posted

Small aircraft short on fuel touches down on Calgary street

CALGARY — A small aircraft carrying six people has made an emergency… Continue reading

How hospitals prepare for mass-casualty incidents like Toronto van attack

TORONTO — Mass-casualty disasters like Monday’s deadly van attack that sent 10… Continue reading

Chinese automaker plans electric car production in SAfrica

BEIJING — A state-owned Chinese automaker announced plans Wednesday to produce electric… Continue reading

International probe shuts down cyberattack provider

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — In a major hit against cybercriminals, an international… Continue reading

Rental agencies struggle with screenings as security concerns rise

Monday’s deadly rental van rampage in Toronto shows how quickly a vehicle… Continue reading

WATCH: Alberta’s revenue shortage concerns Central Albertans

Public Interest Alberta hosted the discussion at Red Deer College on Tuesday

WORLD CUP: Last stand for stars of Spain’s golden generation

MADRID — After recent struggles at major tournaments, the remaining stars of… Continue reading

Maple Leafs, Raptors, TFC create perfect storm of sports buzz in Toronto

TORONTO — The Raptors are hosting, but supporters of the Maple Leafs… Continue reading

Jury to deliberate after Cosby painted as predator, victim

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Jurors at Bill Cosby’s sexual assault retrial are poised… Continue reading

B.C. researchers get patent to develop potential vaccine for syphilis

VANCOUVER — Researchers at the University of Victoria have been granted a… Continue reading

Mane Event rides into Red Deer

A weekend for the horses comes to Red Deer, as the Westerner… Continue reading

Edmonton retiree robbed of $210K in silver bars police investigating

EDMONTON — Police are hoping that they can provide a silver lining… Continue reading

Cause of plane crash that killed former Alberta premier Jim Prentice to be released

The findings of investigation into the plane crash that killed four set to be released.

MPAA head says theatres will survive rise of streaming sites

LAS VEGAS — Two film industry leaders told theatre owners Tuesday that… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month