WINNIPEG – A carbon monoxide leak at a Winnipeg hotel led to a busy day for Winnipeg hospitals, who treated over 40 people that were exposed.
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says there were no fatalities and had no patients requiring intensive care services.
But for those who were in the hotel at the time, it was not a pleasant experience.
Sergiy Bolshakov was watching TV in his Winnipeg hotel room when a firefighter knocked on the door and told him the building was being evacuated because of an emergency.
The Toronto man quickly realized he wasn’t feeling well.
“I felt very dizzy and had a headache,” said Bolshakov.
He was among the 46 people taken to several hospitals Tuesday as firefighters determined there had been an extreme carbon monoxide leak at the Super 8 on Portage Avenue.
Emergency officials said 15 people were in critical condition.
Bolshakov was released within a few hours.
“They did all the tests necessary and we were good to go,” he said
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John Lane, chief of Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service, said in total 52 people, including two children and hotel staff, and a dog, were evacuated from the three-storey business at about 10 a.m.
He said the leak originated in the hotel’s boiler room.
Steve Brglez, acting platoon chief, said 15 patients were listed as critical because of high carbon monoxide readings in their blood.
“They were transported critical based on that reading and other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, a decrease in level consciousness,” he said.
Paramedics were concerned about their immediate health but not that they might die, he added.
“We don’t expect any fatalities from this.”
Brglez added that he expected some of the patients to be released from hospitals within a few hours while others might be held overnight.
Quinton Tomalin, who works at the Winnipeg Auto Gallery across the street from the Super 8, said it seemed as though those in the worst condition were brought out of the building first.
“We saw the first guy come out, he was a younger gentleman. They put him on a stretcher and he was vomiting quite bad,” he said.
“A couple other people who were in pretty rough shape were brought out and put on stretchers immediately.”
Manitoba Hydro said its crews also responded, shutting off gas lines and ventilating the building.
The utility company confirmed it was not a natural gas leak, but a carbon monoxide poisoning.
“Natural gas has a rotten egg smell added to it so that it can be detected _ carbon monoxide is odourless, which is why you need a CO alarm in your home and business.”
Hotel owner Justin Schinkel said the Super 8 recently passed a fire inspection and has never had a carbon monoxide leak before.
“It’s the worst imaginable feeling, all of a sudden, something bad like this happens, you don’t know the extent of it,” Schinkel said.
“We’re just super happy that the first responders are so helpful and they’ve been able to get here so quick and help us out here.”
Alex Forrest, president of United Firefighters of Winnipeg Local 867, called the leak a nightmare scenario, but said it could have been a lot worse.
“We’re in an area where we have a very quick response of firefighters,” he said. “We were able to be here within minutes.”
He said the fire trucks were equipped with devices to test the air quality.
“That’s when they found extreme levels of carbon monoxide,” he said.
“We just hope there’s no deaths that result from this.”
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, who was at a meeting with other premiers and Indigenous leaders in Saskatchewan, said he was shocked to hear about the leak.
“To see this many people impacted by carbon monoxide poisoning _ it’s unprecedented in my experience,” he said.
“Hopefully we see people on the road to recovery very quickly.”
— With files from Nicole Thompson in Toronto and Daniela Germano in Edmonton