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Parent involved in Deer Lake pool incident looking for more answers

The pool at the Holiday Inn Express in Deer Lake.
The pool at the Holiday Inn Express in Deer Lake. - Roxanne Ryland photo

Craig Parsons would like a bit more investigation onto the incident that sent several children who had been at a hotel pool in Deer Lake to hospital last Friday evening.

Parsons was with his two children, aged 5 and 7, as they enjoyed the water of the Holiday Inn Express pool.

Just before 7 p.m., one of his kids complained about a funny smell. Seconds later, Parsons said, the entire pool facility was overtaken with an unbearable odour.

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Chlorine gas pumping system malfunction at Deer Lake hotel’s swimming pool sends several to hospital

He helped get his kids and some of the other hotel guests at the pool out of the area as quickly as possible.

The pool was shut down for what the hotel and the Corner Brook Fire Department, which is the regional hazardous materials emergency response unit responsible for Deer Lake, described as a chlorine gas issue.

Parsons said the people who were at the pool dispersed, but later sought medical attention when some of the kids began getting sick. He said paramedics did arrive and began checking those who were exposed to the noxious substance.

He said it was suggested that parents who had concerns should bring their kids to the hospital to be assessed further.

Parsons, and a few others, did voluntarily take their kids to Western Memorial Regional Hospital. The kids were stripped to their underwear and washed down to get any chemical residue off them.

The children were also required to stay overnight and have their respiratory systems monitored regularly before being released with a prescription for steroids.

Parsons said the emergency personnel at the hospital had indicated the children may have been exposed to more than chlorine gas. He said what he smelled at the pool during the incident smelled like something else, and he would like confirmation of what it was they were exposed to.

“It smelled like more than chlorine,” Parsons said in an interview Monday. “I have a hot tub and I have been around pools all my life. I know what chlorine smells like and this was a gas (I) have never experienced. It just took your breath away.”

Deputy Chief Craig Harnum of the Corner Brook Fire Department was unavailable for an interview Monday, but in an electronic message said it would be incorrect to say there was anything more than chlorine involved.

Glenn Squires, chief executive officer for Parcim Hospitality Services Inc., which owns the Holiday Inn Express in Deer Lake, said the only chemical involved was a small amount of chlorine gas released into the atmosphere after a pump malfunctioned.

Deer Lake Fire and Rescue was not called to the scene until shortly before 10 p.m. and the hazmat team from Corner Brook would not have arrived until after that. Parsons says the hazmat team should have been called in immediately after the release of a hazardous material, no matter what it was, and not more than three hours later.

The hazmat team, according to Harnum, swept the hotel with chlorine monitors upon arrival and found the air quality to be safe.

“Shouldn’t they have been called in to do that by 7:30 (p.m.)?” asked Parsons.

Squires said his staff acted appropriately by evacuating and shutting down the pool, then calling in paramedics when requested. He said it would have then fallen to the medical personnel on the scene to make the call for any further response, including calling in the hazmat team.

“From our perspective, we want to take all the steps we can to prevent these sorts of things,” said Squires. “Unfortunately, at times, equipment may malfunction or break down, despite our best efforts. We want to make sure our people respond in an appropriate manner and it appears in this case that they did.”

The Western Star asked Western Health to comment on its involvement in the incident, but there was no reply as of deadline Monday.

The Western Star also asked Service NL if there would be an investigation into the incident, but its Corner Brook office was closed due to inclement weather Monday and no one was available.

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