Source of Sickness Unfounded: Fire Official

At least 20 sickened at Coronado church; investigators say cause unknown and unfounded

After at least 20 people became physically sick suddenly inside a Coronado church, investigators said they were unable to find a cause and have deemed the building safe.

Students and adults became sick Friday around 9 a.m. at a service inside Coronado's Sacred Heart Catholic Church -- which also operates a school at the site -- on the last day of classes, said Coronado police Chief Louis Scanlon. He said the Sacred Hearth Parish School students began coughing and complaining of dizziness, and that at least 20 people showed symptoms of nausea and dizziness.

"About 9 o'clock this morning, several children who were attending a church service here actually passed out and lost consciousness," Scanlon said.

An adult who was inside the church said the people who got sick were sitting on the right-hand side of the church, toward the middle of the pews.

"[It] made one girl faint, and it started to make me faint ... I did smell something," a little boy named Adam said. "It started blocking up my throat."

Paramedics at the scene treated both children and adults at a triage center on a lawn across the street, where several people were on their backs, and a staging area was set up at Spreckles Park. Nearby, dozens of anxious parents are standing by.

A hazardous-material team was called out after the students became ill, according to the Heartland Fire Department.

The church in the 700 block of C Street was evacuated, and emergency responders looked for some sort of leak -- possibly natural gas or carbon monoxide -- according to a spokesperson for the Coronado Police Department.

After 2 p.m. Friday, an incident commander with the Coronado Fire Department said the team attempted to replicate the conditions by checking all furnaces and heating sources. No contaminants were found inside the building. The cause of illness is unknown and unfounded, the fire official said. Crews were unable to pinpoint a cause and the building was deemed safe.

Officials said 17 children and five adults were taken to area hospitals. At least 20 people are being treated at the UCSD Medical Center emergency room for possible carbon-monoxide poisoning, said hospital spokesperson Kim Edwards. She said only one or two of those patients are adults.

The victims are being given a quick and relatively simple test to detect and measure carbon-monoxide levels. If any of them have an unacceptable level of carbon monoxide in their system, they will be treated in the hospital's hyperbaric chamber, which seats up to 12 patients at a time.

Edwards said it was "hectic" in the ER but that the parents and students were calm.

According to school officials, about 255 students attend the K-8 school.

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