EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, October 8, 2022.
WEST BARNSTABLE — Two children overwhelmed by fumes from a hazardous material spill at the Cape Cod YMCA on Friday have been airlifted to Boston for medical treatment, according to Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe.
One child was more seriously injured than the other, O’Keefe said on Saturday.
However, he said he was extremely optimistic on both counts. He also said the situation at the YMCA was not as bad as officials had originally thought.
“Everyone is really relieved,” O’Keefe said by phone.
Barnstable police were notified of a suspected chemical reaction in the pool area of the Cape Cod YMCA around 2:30 p.m., according to Massachusetts State Police. The chemical reaction caused children aged 6 to 10 to cough and vomit.
All seven children were taken to Cape Cod Hospital. Two children were airlifted to Boston via a medical flight, and as of Saturday, one of the children was in critical but stable condition, state police said.
The preliminary investigation shows that the children began to fall ill immediately after entering the pool. Two employees helped evacuate the children from the pool and the building.
Firefighters found a large pool shock container, an empty hydrochloric acid bottle and two hydrochloric acid bottles in a maintenance room near the pool deck.
The spill investigation was turned over to state police after firefighters inspected the building, West Barnstable Fire Chief Joseph Maruca said.
At that time, he had no information about the condition of the children.
On Friday, the YMCA announced it would be operating regular hours on Saturday, according to the Facebook page. He also said the pool would be open and swimming competitions would go ahead as planned.
However, around 1 p.m. Saturday, the YMCA announced it would close the pool while the investigation continued.
Children exposed to fumes from hydrochloric acid spill
When Maruca responded to emergency calls from the YMCA on Friday, he found that seven children had been exposed to fumes from a hydrochloric acid spill.
Hydrochloric acid is used to balance water acidity levels in swimming pools and also as a cleaning agent to remove mold, rust and calcium buildup.
“We don’t know where they were when they inhaled the fumes. We don’t know if they were in the pool or in the locker room,” Maruca said. “When children inhale fumes of this nature, it’s serious enough to go to hospital.”
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Seven mutual aid ambulances responded to the emergency, along with the state’s Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Division.
The division provides trained technicians and special equipment to help fire departments protect the public and the environment during incidents involving hazardous materials, according to the state’s website.
Late Friday afternoon, firefighters inspected the rest of the building for lingering fumes.
The YMCA is at 2245 Iyannough Road.
Writer Asad Jung contributed to this story.
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