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Carbon monoxide poisoning at LaSalle elementary school sends 43 students, staff to hospital

Fire chief says faulty heating system appears to be source of toxic leak

Police, firefighters and ambulances rushed to Des Decouvreurs elementary school in Montreal’s LaSalle borough Monday morning, after dozens of children suddenly became ill.

Montreal’s fire chief suspects a faulty heating system could be responsible for a carbon monoxide leak that sickened dozens of students and staff at an elementary school in the city’s southwest end on Monday.

First responders took 35 children and eight adults from Des Decouvreurs elementary school to at least three Montreal-area hospitals — the Montreal Children’s and Sainte-Justine hospitals, as well as the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Others were nauseous, vomited and were dizzy, Urgences-santé spokesperson François Labelle said at the scene.

The sick children are between the ages of six and 13.

Dozens of children and staff at the LaSalle’s Des Decouvreurs elementary school were taken by ambulance to at least three Montreal hospitals, after an apparent carbon monoxide leak. (Radio-Canada)

Des Decouvreurs school, located on 39th Avenue, near Riverside Park in the borough of LaSalle, was evacuated soon after a 911 call came in from the school at 11:12 a.m. ET. The children who weren’t sick were moved to nearby Notre-Dame-des-Rapides school.

CO detector missing or faulty?

According to fire Chief Francis Leduc, the carbon monoxide leak could have come from a bad connection in the school’s heating system. Such a defect is not uncommon, he said, and because carbon monoxide is odourless, its presence can be hard to detect.

Leduc said most schools are equipped with carbon monoxide detectors, but Des Decouvreurs was not.

Marguerite-Bourgeoys school board president Diane Lamarche-Venne disputed Leduc’s comments, saying the school is equipped with both a carbon monoxide detector and a methane detector — although neither are mandatory under Quebec’s construction code.

Code Orange

The Montreal Children’s Hospital issued a Code Orange for most of the afternoon, lifting it around 4 p.m.

During a briefing, Dr. Robert Barnes, the hospital’s associate director of professional services, had asked that parents of sick children take them to other hospitals as they dealt with the influx of cases.

The hospital received 16 children to its emergency room, according to a statement.

A spokesperson for Sainte-Justine Hospital said that by 3 p.m., it had received 22 children from the school.
Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann said she was happy with the rapid response from Urgences-santé and that there will be a thorough investigation into what happened.

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