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PG Swimmers Okay, Two In Hospital After WL Chlorine Incident

By Michelle Cyr-Whiting

Sunday, February 26, 2012 07:27 PM

Sam Ketcham pool in Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex, site of this morning's incident   Facebook

Prince George, B.C. -  Two people have been admitted to hospital in Williams Lake as a result of this morning's chlorine exposure incident that initially sent 70 swim meet participants - including 22 from Prince George - and spectators to ER...

It was the final day of the Blue Fin meet involving swimmers between the ages of 5 to 12 years old from Williams Lake, Quesnel and Prince George at the Sam Ketcham pool in Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex.  City of Williams Lake Communications Coordinator Ken MacInnis says what's being described as a chlorine 'incident' occurred at 8:20am, prompting the evacuation of the entire complex, including the ice arenas where a hockey tournament was underway.

Cariboo Memorial Hospital Administrator, Allison Ruault, says, in total, 70 people were admitted into the Emergency room.  MacInnis says at least one was an employee at the pool.  Ruault says the hospital declared a Code Orange - redeploying staff from other parts of the hospital; calling in additional employees; using RCMP Officers, BC Ambulance Service paramedics and a number Emergency Support workers to assist with the initial processing of all the incoming patients.

Ruault says a triage was immediately established and the patients were sorted by the severity of their symptoms due to the chlorine exposure.  Some were treated quite quickly and released, others were observed for a while, and two have been admitted, but she cannot provide any specifics on their condition.

Ruault says Cariboo Memorial typically sees 50- to 60-patients in a 24-hour period, but dealt with 70 this morning in a matter of four hours.  She says she's extremely pleased with how staff and local first responders worked together through this situation.

Prince George Barracudas Coach, Jason Smith, says 22 of the club's young swimmers were at the meet, and 15 were transported to hospital.  Smith was at home in Prince George, but was in contact with the club's coaches in Williams Lake.  He says they were initially told they'd have to be observed for 12-hours, but were all cleared to leave for home from Williams Lake around 11am.  All are supposed to go in to the University Hospital of Northern BC for a quick check-up at 8pm this evening, and are supposed to stay away from swimming for a few days.

Smith points out that while he's always been aware of the potential for incidents involving chlorine, they're very rare.  He says he's never experienced one in his career around swimming pools.

Meantime, the City of Williams Lake re-opened the twin arenas in the complex by early afternoon, but the pool remains closed.  Ken MacInnis says there will be an investigation to determine just what happened and why the situation occurred.  Investigators will be looking at the equipment that regulates chlorine in the pool, among other things.  At this early stage, MacInnis is not yet sure just which agencies will be involved in the investigation.



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