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Gas in St. John’s rink sends minor hockey players to hospital

Dozens of children and adults were exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide at the Bussey Arena Friday. Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Dozens of children and adults were exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide at the Bussey Arena Friday. Keith Gosse/The Telegram - Keith Gosse

Zamboni malfunction at Bussey Arena sickens participants at bantam tournament

Dozens of minor hockey players taking part in the provincial bantam AAA championship at Bussey Arena in St. John’s were in hospital Friday night being treated for elevated carbon monoxide levels following a Zamboni malfunction, The Telegram has learned.

Minor hockey players from the St. John’s, Tri-Com and Tri-Pen teams, and possibly the Western team, were at the Health Sciences Centre Friday afternoon and night receiving pure oxygen after being exposed to carbon monoxide.

At least 10 to 12 players from St. John’s visited the hospital.

None of the players were said to be in danger.

In addition to the players, four on-ice officials were also being treated Friday evening.

“As far as I can tell, the Zamboni had a faulty seal,” said Gonzo Bennett, the eastern area director for Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador’s Minor Council, who was in the rink.

“That’s what the fire department told us.”

Sources told The Telegram the ice-cleaning machine was experiencing some mechanical problems. When it did get started, the Zamboni was left running for a “period of time” inside the rink, The Telegram was told.

“We had a game (between Tri-Pen and Western) at 9 a.m. and there was some concern the Zamboni wasn’t operating properly,” Bennett said. “We started the game on time in the hopes it would be fixed.

“The Zamboni came out for a flood after the first period. I figured then the issue had been solved.”

Following the 9 a.m. game, St. John’s and Tri-com faced off at 10:30 a.m. It was after that game some players began feeling somewhat nauseous.

It wasn’t until about 3 p.m., however, that the St. John’s Regional Fire Department was called to the rink.

“I was home for a break when I got the call the fire department was there,” Bennett said. “No adults in the rink, to my understanding, were affected. I was there almost all day, in the upstairs boardroom area where the levels were the highest and I didn’t notice or smell anything.

“It was the players on the ice and the officials who were working hard, breathing hard, who were affected.”

The tournament is expected to resume Saturday at the Paradise Double Ice Complex. Bennett said he has asked the teams to provide an update on the players by noon Saturday.

“If there is any player who feels he cannot play, he won’t be expected to play,” Bennett said.

Friday, Eastern Health put out a statement that as a result of the CO exposure at the rink, it is advising anyone who was in the arena Friday to seek immediate medical attention if they experience symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

At low levels, the statement said, CO poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms, food poisoning or other illnesses, and carries a long-term health risk if left unattended.

Eastern Health said symptoms of exposure may include nausea and headaches, while more severe poisoning may cause vomiting, dizziness, slowed thinking, drowsiness, loss of consciousness, collapse and cardiac arrest.

Eastern Health noted that people with medical conditions such as coronary or vascular disease may be particularly at risk, as well as children and pregnant women.

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