Leak causes hotel evacuation

Acknowledgement to Ironshore Environmental

By Joseph M. Dougherty
Deseret News
Published: Saturday, July 30, 2005 11:50 p.m. MDT

Fifty-one people were taken to the hospital in Panguitch Saturday morning after a chemical leak at Ruby’s Inn near Bryce Canyon National Park began to make them sick.

The leak happened at 11:30 a.m. at the popular hotel, where a convention for ham radio operators was taking place.

About 300 people were evacuated from the inn’s main building after patrons near the pool area began to have some of the following symptoms: nausea, headaches, breathing problems, burning, irritation, fluid in their lungs or dizziness, according to Becki Bronson, spokeswoman for the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office.

But by late Saturday, hazmat response technicians had not determined what chemical was causing problems.

Incident commander Eric Syrett said chlorine and burned refrigerant were both ruled out.

Crews continued to search the hotel’s mechanical rooms, pool area and hotel rooms, Bronson said, and the air inside the main lodge was determined to be safe.

An influx of 51 patients could have easily overwhelmed the small 45-bed Garfield Memorial Hospital, said Alberto Vasquez, the hospital’s administrator. But a decontamination trailer posted at the hospital processed incoming patients in an orderly manner, Vasquez said.

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