On Monday, 44 students and adults from Montezuma Creek Elementary School were treated for possible carbon monoxide poisoning. The leak is being blamed on faulty water heater equipment. The scare began shortly after school started on Monday morning. The students were all gathered in the school’s gymnasium near the room where the water heaters are located.
Of the 44 people affected and transported to hospitals in Monticello, Blanding and Cortez, Colorado, one was a volunteer EMT. Montezuma Creek Elementary School holds grades kindergarten through sixth grades and about 280 students were at the school at the time. Others that were affected were taken by bus or ambulance and treated at area hospitals.
According to Desert News, when a student started to show symptoms, the first 911 call came at 8:20 a.m. another call followed at 9:20 a.m. for an adult who had collapsed. A third emergency call came in at 9:40 a.m., reporting that multiple people needed help.
Many emergency medical service crews responded to the scene, including Montezuma Creek, Bluff, Monticello and Blanding, along with three ambulances from the Navajo Nation and numerous fire and law enforcement officers.
San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman said the carbon monoxide levels were at their highest near the school’s kitchen. “The CO2 levels rose to dangerous levels. They measured it at about 300 parts per million, which is really high,” he said. Once levels hit 35 parts per million, it can be dangerous for adults.
The elementary was evacuated to Whitehorse High School located nearby. Once the students were safely evacuated, emergency crews set up a staging area and those who needed additional help were taken to local hospitals.
Classes will resume on Tuesday and a meeting will be scheduled for concerned parents who need more information on the incident. San Juan School District Superintendent Douglas Wright carbon monoxide detectors aren’t required in the school, but the school district will be reconsidering the policy.