Students, teachers released from hospital after carbon monoxide incident

Published 5:13 pm Tuesday, October 21, 2008

County manager Ryan Whitson says the building inspections department was doing an inspection and performing tests on the heating system at the Virtual Earle College to make sure it&squo;s performing properly. The furnace serving the early college was checked just a few months ago and is only 10 years old, according to Whitson. The building, located on Walker Street in downtown Columbus, most recently housed the county&squo;s clerk of court offices and previously was the county&squo;s main library.

Whitson added that he is looking into whether regular inspections are performed on gas appliances in all county buildings.

Polk County Emergency Medical Services Director Sandra Halford provided Monday night a report on the incident to county commissioners.&bsp; She said the county is distributing gas and carbon monoxide leak brochures to residents around the county.

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She said the first call came in at 10:24 a.m. of a possible gas leak and two students &dquo;were already down.&dquo;

The victims ranged in age from 14 to 62 with the greatest&bsp; number being 14 year olds.&bsp; The early college, which offers online learning and the opportunity to gain up to two years of college credit at no cost, started in Polk County last year and so far includes freshman and sophomores.

By 3 p.m. on Monday the hospital had treated and released 20 people and by 5 p.m. 10 more were released, said Halford. All but two people were released as of 6 p.m. Monday, and those people were released later in the day, say officials. The cause of the incident was determined&bsp; to be an incomplete combustion of gas, says Halford.

A total of 11 agencies were involved in the response, along with four other organizations, including Link Medical, the school bus garage and a gas company.

Tommy Melton, chairman of the Polk County Board of Commissioenrs, said he was amazed and pleased at all the response and even saw assistance from Landrum.