An LA County Fire Department Hazardous Materials truck stationed outside a Phillips 66 to assist locals with air monitoring tests in March 2019. Photo courtesy of LA County Fire Department PIO/Twitter. Composite image by Joshua Skovlund/Coffee or Die Magazine.
Five Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were transported to a hospital Monday after all were temporarily overcome with sickness after entering a home. A hazmat team was unable to determine the cause of the mass-sickness event.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Deputy Eva Jimenez told Coffee or Die Magazine that the deputies responded to a call of a “baby not breathing” in southeastern Los Angeles County. In fact, she said, they found a 17-year-old not breathing and quickly realized that the teen’s mother had called 911 and said, “My baby isn’t breathing.”
It was not clear whether the teen’s breathing issues were related to the deputies’ complaints. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported that the original patient was pronounced dead at the scene, after which the paramedics and firefighters who’d also answered the call left the house. The firefighters were then called back when the deputies started becoming ill with what the LA County Fire Department Twitter account described as “suffering from minor complaints.” Sheriff’s officials said they could not detail the nature of the complaints because of medical privacy rules. Local authorities evacuated the occupants of the home, and all five deputies were transported to a local hospital.
A man is dead, according to LA County Fire Captain Ron Haralson, who said the incident was not related to the 5 people who were transported to a hospital Mon. in the 8400 blk of Kellam Ln., Sheriff’s Lt. Joe Gonzalez said. People react across st. from Pico Rivera Inn & Suites. pic.twitter.com/XHDTbDHwkI
— Cindy Yamanaka (@Cyamanaka7) May 10, 2021
Jimenez told Coffee or Die that all deputies were treated and released from the hospital before the end of the day and have all returned to duty.
The Fire Department and sheriff’s hazmat teams evaluated the home for possible toxic or chemical dangers, but none were found. LA Fire Capt. Ron Haralson told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that the teams had not detected any carbon monoxide in the home.
The Sheriff’s Department said no criminal investigation was underway.
Varying toxic and/or chemical exposures have led to mass episodes of sickness among first responders in the past. In a similar incident in Massachusetts in 2017, five responders became sick at a home that held a dead body, according to reporting from WCVB5. Also in 2017, an Exeter, New Hampshire, hospital reported that 19 hospital workers had fallen ill around a “mystery odor,” according to EMS1. Local fire authorities later said that the employees were exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide.
Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children.
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