Fog machine causes elementary school evacuation in Macomb Twp

A Macomb Township grade school was evacuated as rescue crews helped dozens of students who were hospitalized Wednesday.

A malfunctioning fog machine caused the evacuation at Beck Centennial Elementary school as students suffered nausea, headaches and teary eyes during practice for a school musical. 

"I panicked, I called the superintendent they said they are fine and are being evacuated and wouldn't tell us what's going on," said parent Candice Spitler. 

Parents like Spitler feared the worst Wednesday morning after they learned students had become ill. More than 30 were rushed to the hospital, the others including her first grader and sixth grader evacuated..

"I think they were using this fog machine with certain chemicals in it and a couple kids passed out," said student Autumn Spitler. "There was a bunch of ambulances at the school."

FOX 2 was told the fifth graders were rehearsing for a concert in the auditorium. As soon as the fog machine kicked on, many of the children became sick with a myriad of symptoms. The school immediately dialed 911.

"We believe the fog machine is what caused them not to feel well," said Christine Johns, superintendent of Utica Community Schools.

"We evaluated every single fifth grader that was in the auditorium," said Macomb Township Fire Chief Robert Phillips. "We started with those who didn't feel well, reporting some sort of complaint."

Thirty rushed to the hospital, while the remaining 500-plus students transported by busses here to nearby Eisenhower High School where their parents could come pick them up.

"I'm hoping and I'm thinking they did it the best way they could to get the kids out of there," said Pam Ferguson who went to pick up her granddaughter. 

Phillips ruled out any sort of gas leak or carbon monoxide poisoning right away. The fire department's investigation revealed that the music teacher didn't set up the fog machine properly by connecting the hose through the dry ice which gave the kids a higher concentration of the vapors. 

It isn't toxic - but that he says it what made the kids sick.

Most of the students were released from the hospital by the afternoon.

"The emergency procedures we have practiced for, kicked into place," Johns said. "We followed those procedures to make sure our children were safe."

"They did very well, kept everyone in order," Candice Spitler said. "Even though it was a slow process it was safety for our kids I'm very pleased with how they handled it

Classes were canceled for the rest of the day and the school will reopen Thursday.


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