School not source of carbon monoxide illnesses, says superintendent

School not source of carbon monoxide illnesses, says superintendent
New Brockton High School (Source: WSFA 12 News)

COFFEE COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Coffee County School system has had carbon monoxide testing done at New Brockton High School numerous times since eight students became ill Thursday and not a single test has come back positive for the facility being the source of the poisoning.

Testing was done Thursday and Friday, then again over the weekend. On Monday, Superintendent Kevin Killingsworth said four different agencies - the New Brockton Fire Department, Coffee County EMA, Ft. Rucker Fire Department, and Enterprise Fire/Rescue - checked the facility twice. The results found no levels of carbon monoxide, he said.

Even the system’s school buses were checked with negative results.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas. It’s dangerous because it starves the heart, brain and other vital organs by displacing oxygen in the blood. Large amounts of the gas can overcome a person within minutes, without warning, causing a loss of consciousness and, ultimately, suffocation.

Killingsworth said he and staff members met with the Alabama State Fire Marshall’s Office and the Alabama Department of Public Health at the school Monday morning.

“After discussing all of the steps we have taken to ensure that New Brockton High School is safe, the agencies are too in agreement that our school is safe for students and staff,” Killingsworth said. “We have done our due diligence to make sure that our students and staff are safe and there are no threats of carbon monoxide.”

An investigation was opened Thursday when four students in the school’s gym began showing signs of what was thought to be heat stress. They were taken to an area hospital as a precaution. That’s when tests determined they had elevated levels of carbon monoxide in their systems.

Fearing a leak, the school’s gym was immediately evacuated, but testing found nothing.

Later that evening, four more students were taken to the emergency room with the same symptoms, and it was confirmed they, too, had elevated carbon monoxide levels.

The school, as well as New Brockton Elementary, were closed Friday as a precaution.

“If a problem had been found, we would have addressed the issue and moved to have it resolved,” Killingsworth said. “I have asked multiple agencies that assisted us if there is anything else that could be done to ensure our students and staff members’ safety. The agencies concur that we have exhausted all resources at our disposal and there is no reason that the school should remain closed.”

The source of the illness has still not been determined but all of the students have since been released from the hospital.

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