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UPDATED: Williams Lake complex evacuated Sunday after chemical scare

A boy wrapped in a towel and equipped with an oxygen mask is ushered out of the Cariboo Memorial Complex following a chlorine leak at the facility’s pool Sunday morning. Interior Health said 70 people in total were treated at the Cariboo Memorial Hospital. - Greg Sabatino photo
A boy wrapped in a towel and equipped with an oxygen mask is ushered out of the Cariboo Memorial Complex following a chlorine leak at the facility’s pool Sunday morning. Interior Health said 70 people in total were treated at the Cariboo Memorial Hospital.
— image credit: Greg Sabatino photo

An investigation into what caused a chlorine incident that sent 70 people at the Sam Ketcham Memorial Pool to hospital Sunday is underway, the city said Monday.

“A number of city personnel, as well as an independent health and safety consultant are currently at the Complex conducting the investigation,” the city said.

“The pool and the fitness centre will remain closed until the investigation is complete. The ice rinks remain open to the public. The Gibraltar Room will re-open Tuesday.”

The city also said it will not speculate as to the cause of the incident, preferring instead to wait for the outcome of the investigation.

“The city will notify residents when the investigation is complete and when the closed areas of the complex will re-open to the public,” the city said.

Of the 70 patients treated at the Cariboo Memorial Hospital about 45 were children. Interior Health said Monday there was still one child being treated at the hospital.

The incident took place at about 8:20 a.m. Sunday morning. The Williams Lake Blue Fins Swim Club, along with swimmers from Prince George and Quesnel, had just begun warming up in the pool for a swim meet.

Blue Fins swimmer Abbi Taylor told the Tribune there were close to 60 kids in the pool by the time people noticed something was wrong.

“We were 20 minutes into warmup and straight chlorine was being pumped into the pool,” Taylor said. “It was coming out into the deck area, the smell. There were a lot of little kids in the pool, 12 and unders. I’d say 50, 60 little kids were in the pool.”

By 9 a.m. Sunday emergency personnel had treated several swimmers for exposure to the chemical. Most were sent to the hospital to be checked out.

“There are a lot of kids that were affected,” Taylor said. “Tons. Almost everybody in the pool. Coughing, breathing tanks. A lot of kids had to go to the hospital from Quesnel and Prince George, too.”

The Williams Lake RCMP, the B.C. Ambulance Service, and the Williams Lake Fire Department Hazmat team all attended the scene.

“I’ve heard how emergency personnel have gone above and beyond during this incident, from RCMP bringing in extra resources, doctors, coming in to the hospital on Sunday, and nurses taking on extra duties,” said Mayor Kerry Cook in a news release. “Williams Lake, as always, is coming together to support those in need. Our number one concern is the health and safety of everyone.”

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