SAN JUAN COUNTY – A carbon monoxide leak led to the evacuation of an elementary school, necessitating over 40 people to be sent to area hospitals Monday.
Students and faculty at Montezuma Creek Elementary School in San Juan County were exposed to carbon monoxide Monday morning, Rick Bailey, of San Juan County Emergency Management, said in an issued statement.
According to the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office: “An exhaust pipe coming from one of two water heaters had become disconnected at some time venting gas into a mechanical room, the kitchen, and classrooms.”
The leak resulted in three 911 calls between 8:20 and 9:40 a.m., and related to “a student in distress,” “an adult down,” and finally a call concerning multiple patients. A total of 10 ambulances responded from Montezuma Creek, Bluff, Blanding and the Navajo Nation. Law and fire units from around the region, including the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, Utah Highway Patrol and San Juan County, N.M., also responded to the scene.
A total of 44 patients consisting of students, faculty and an volunteer EMT were transported to area hospitals for treatment, according to to San Juan Sheriff’s Office. Two of the patients, a female student and a female third grade teacher, were airlifted by medical helicopter to Southwest Memorial Hospital in Cortez, Colo. The teacher since been taken to a Salt Lake City hospital.
“It is anticipated that all students with the exception of the female teacher and EMT have been or will be released from hospitals by this evening,” the sheriff’s office said.
It is estimated that 280-300 students attend the Montezuma Creek Elementary School. “Students were removed from the school and were reunited with parents and guardians,” Bailey said.
Local school personnel from the Montezuma Creek Elementary School and Whitehorse High School, along with staff from the San Juan School District were on scene carrying out their Emergency Operations Plan, the sheriff’s office said. San Juan County also dispatched other emergency management personnel and resources to the school.
The school district reported Monday afternoon they had turned off the water heater in question pending additional investigation and are using a second water heater. Current carbon monoxide levels are zero in the school and the district intends to open elementary school with a full schedule Tuesday morning.
Updated at 7 p.m. with additional information from the San Juan Sheriff’s Office.
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