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School kids, 2 teachers sickened by gas fumes after apparent leak

Updated: May 26, 2011 2:41PM



Twelve elementary school students were hospitalized with headaches and nausea after an apparent gas leak that occurred down the street from their south suburban school Thursday morning.

The apparent natural gas leak occurred about 9 a.m. at 1450 Center Ave. in Chicago Heights, according to Nicor spokeswoman Annette Martinez.

The leak occurred outside a vacant building and as of noon Thursday, crews were working to shut off the gas, she said.

The smell of gas was noticed at nearby Lincoln Elementary at 1520 Center Ave., according to Chicago Heights police Sgt. Ron Simonetti. School was in session at the time.

School District 170 Supt. Tom Amadio said the leak occurred down the street from the school near a convenience store, but children and two teachers were affected because the wind was blowing into the school.

Chicago Heights Fire Chief Tom Martello said crews responded twice over the last 24 hours to 15th and Central for the gas leak.

About 8:45 p.m. Wednesday, people smelled gas and could see something coming from the ground in the area, according Martello. Nicor responded and the matter was turned over to them.

Today about 10:30 a.m., multiple ambulances were sent to the school, after the wind shifted and was blowing toward the school.

“Some students said they felt ill, mostly nauseated and a little light-headed,’’ Martello said. “It could have been from exposure from natural gas.’’

Martello said twelve students were taken to three hospitals: St. James Hospital and Health Centers in Chicago Heights, St. James Hospital and Health Center in Olympia Fields, and Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, the chief said.

Amadio put the number of injured at 13, all children who felt queasy and suffered headaches. Two teachers also threw up, but were not hospitalized, he said.

The school was evacuated and children taken to a community center nearby, he said. School will be closed for the rest of the day Thursday.

“We haven’t made a decision about tomorrow,’’ Amadio said.

The school has about 215 students in grades K-8, he said.



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