Irritant leak closes Muskegon Catholic Central; 18 sickened

Muskegon Catholic Central
Two people in hazmat suits enter Muskegon Catholic Central after reports of an irritant leak. (May 23, 2017)

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Hazmat teams were called to Muskegon Catholic Central after an irritant leak sent 18 students and staff to the hospital with breathing problems.

Muskegon Catholic Central President Ken Rasp said he called authorities around 8:15 a.m. Tuesday after sensing the leak. He said he was among those who felt a tickle in his throat.

Emergency crews at Muskegon Catholic Central High School, located at 1145 Laketon Avenue in Muskegon, on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.

Approximately 450 people were in the building at the time. Officials at Mercy Health’s Hackley and Mercy campuses told 24 Hour News 8 that 18 people in total were hospitalized. All of those patients have been treated and released, according to hospital officials.

Muskegon police aid there were no signs of “critical” injuries from the leak.

Rasp said school administrators evacuated the entire building when firefighters called in additional help. They had been in a “quasi-lockdown” before that, he said.

Rasp said administrators decided to cancel classes for the day when they knew they wouldn’t get back into the building because of the issue.

24 Hour News 8 arrived to see first-responders putting on hazmat suits before entering the school, located at 1145 W. Laketon Ave. Some students were also being picked up by their parents.

Muskegon police said two hazmat teams were called in to sweep the building with monitors. They wore hazmat suits as a precaution.

School officials did not specify what the irritant was, but said later Tuesday that it was not harmful. Police said there is no evidence someone caused the leak intentionally to harm others’ breathing.

Classes will resume as normal Wednesday.