12 hospitalized after falling ill at waterpark

12 hospitalized after falling ill at waterpark
Several ambulances responded to an incident at Gulf Islands Waterpark in Gulfport. (Photo source: WLOX)
Several ambulances responded to an incident at Gulf Islands Waterpark in Gulfport. (Photo source: WLOX)

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A relaxing day at Gulf Islands Waterpark in Gulfport changed quickly Monday when park goers began smelling a strong odor in one of the park's attractions. By the end of the day, two dozen guests complained of issues primarily with their breathing. Some even had to be hospitalized.

Emergency personnel worked fast evaluating the affected guests.

"They said a chlorine pipe bust, but my eyes had been burning before they mentioned the pipe bust. I went to the first aid they told me all they could do is flush my eyes out with water," said Joshua Joseph.

As many as 12 people were taken to the hospital.

"They had a lot of little kids in there coughing and choking. People got breathing masks on, oxygen tanks," said Joseph.

The problem all stemmed from a private contractor working on a valve at the back of the park.

"He turned on and off the system, which created a chemical push of chlorine all at one burst. And that aerates into the water or bubbles. That's what gets into the air and people breathed in both times," said Gulf Islands Waterpark General Manager Mark Moore.

An excessive amount of chlorine poured into a small section of the lazy river. Park guests were the first to realize the problem smelling a strong stench.

"Like a strong chlorine, bleachy smell," Sherice Williams recalled.

"They sectioned it off and told half of the people to get out that was on that part of the bust," said Logan Buteau.

Park officials said the chlorine problem was fixed and the closed section of the lazy river was reopened.

"At a very super high exposure, it could damage your lungs, if you ingested it for a long period of time. But I don't think any of that happened. It wasn't that strong of a concentration. It was just stronger than what you certainly would expect to find in a pool," said Gulfport Fire Chief Michael Beyerstedt.

The substance released was a kind of liquid bleach, sodium hypochlorite, which Beyerstedt described as much stronger than regular household bleach.

Moore said he's sorry to those who were impacted by the chlorine, but said he guarantees the entire park is safe for all guests. Moore said this was the first time this kind of issue has occurred at the park.

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