Carbon monoxide sends 19 Bangor beauty school staff, students to hospital

Customers Carly McCann, 19, and friend Shainna Mills, 19, both of Old Town, showed up for a manicure appointment Wednesday only to learn the school closed earlier in the day when 19 Empire Beauty School students and staff fell ill from carbon monoxide exposure.
Customers Carly McCann, 19, and friend Shainna Mills, 19, both of Old Town, showed up for a manicure appointment Wednesday only to learn the school closed earlier in the day when 19 Empire Beauty School students and staff fell ill from carbon monoxide exposure.
Posted Feb. 09, 2011, at 1:29 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 09, 2011, at 8:05 p.m.
The Empire Beauty School, located in the Broadway Shpping Center
The Empire Beauty School, located in the Broadway Shpping Center

BANGOR, Maine — Nineteen students and staff members of the Empire Beauty School were treated at local hospitals Wednesday and later released after being exposed to carbon monoxide, forcing the evacuation of the school in the Broadway Shopping Center.

The Bangor Fire Department was called to the scene at 9:42 a.m. after the school’s carbon monoxide detectors went off, according to Assistant Fire Chief Rick Cheverie. He said that once students and staff evacuated the building, some began complaining of light-headedness and nausea.

The incident is the second time in three months that students and staff have been forced to evacuate the school at 639 Broadway. Last Nov. 2, a natural gas leak at the school sent seven people to area hospitals, and they were treated and released the same day, according to Angela Watson, spokeswoman for the Empire Education Group, which owns the school.

Watson said Wednesday that November’s incident was caused by a broken rooftop heating unit that belonged to an adjacent business at the shopping center. This time, she said, the school’s heating unit was to blame, though the exact cause of the malfunction was unknown.

Cheverie said firefighters were at the school for an hour and a half to gauge the levels of carbon monoxide in the building. Once they determined that students and staff had actually been exposed to the gas, he said many were sent to Eastern Maine Medical Center and St. Joseph Hospital as a precaution.

“We determined that there [weren’t] significant amounts of carbon monoxide in the building, but our equipment was picking up the gas in the air,” Cheverie said. “And carbon monoxide is cumulative. Once someone is exposed, it builds up inside their system.”

Cheverie said 12 people were transferred to local hospitals by ambulance. Officials at EMMC and St. Joseph said an additional seven patients were treated as well — for a total of 13 at EMMC and six at St. Joseph. All patients were released later on Wednesday, the hospitals said.

No other locations in the shopping center were evacuated or affected by the incident, according to Cheverie.

Watson said classes were canceled Wednesday and the school planned to reopen Thursday. Technicians were expected to spend the rest of Wednesday fixing the school’s heater.

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