Fire officials rule out CO leak in dorm illness

OLIVET, Mich. (WOOD) – Fire officials have ruled out carbon monoxide leaks or any other gas for sickening nearly 50 students living at the same dormitory hall at Olivet College.

Forty-nine students who reside at Blair Hall — which houses 153 male students, according to the college — reported nausea, headaches, and dizziness on Tuesday and Wednesday, a statement from Olivet College said.

“We don’t know what might be causing it, but everything is on the table as a consideration,” Olivet College Dean and Provost Maria Davis said.

Twenty-four students were assessed on scene and sent on to Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital for further evaluation, but have since been released, according to a release from Olivet College. Other students who reported possible symptoms were urged to report to their hall director or to campus safety for assessment.

A statement sent out on Thursday said a total of 55 students were assessed.

“I saw a couple of people leave on stretchers,” freshman T.J. Stevens told 24 Hour News 8.

Stevens lives in Blair Hall and said fire crews were already on scene when he returned to the hall from class Wednesday.

“As more and more people started leaving in ambulances and stuff like that, I got a little more nervous about what is going on, just wondering,” Stevens said.

Stevens went to football practice. During practice, he decided to go to the hospital.

“People were leaving there (football practice) and going to the hospital to get checked out because they weren’t feeling good. I had a headache all day so I decided to go with them just to get checked,” he said.

Initially, the college and first responders thought the sickness could be the result of carbon monoxide poisoning. The Olivet Fire Department tested campus buildings for elevated levels of carbon monoxide, but none of the buildings tested positive. Firefighters also went through every level of Blair Hall, including the basement and did multiple tests, but did not find any sort of gas or CO leak.

“Let’s make sure its not CO, and we turned the monitor on. Going through everything, we got nothing,” said John Collins, the Olivet fire chief.

Davis said late Wednesday night none of the hospital tests had come back positive for CO.

“Our number one priority is the safety and health of our students,” she said.

Davis said the college has installed 40 CO detectors in the hall as a precautionary measure.

Blair Hall dormitory was closed Wednesday night while authorities searched for a cause and other arraignments were made on campus for students who have been displaced.

After the Barry-Eaton District Health medical director gave the all-clear, saying no known viruses had been found, and the fire department ruled out CO and other gases, Blair Hall was reopened. Dean Davis said she would stay the night at the dorm hall Thursday night.

No students have reported symptoms since late Wednesday night.

Thursday, the cause of the illnesses was still unknown. Nothing had come back from the hospital pointing to a specific cause.

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