Rink evacuation was scary, parents say

TUPPER LAKE — Parents at a hockey game that was evacuated for high carbon monoxide levels at the Tupper Lake Civic Center Saturday said things at the rink were not as calm as an initial report in the Enterprise may have made it seem.

Two parents of players on the Star Lake-Clifton-Fine Bobcats team described crying children, hospital visits and high carbon monoxide levels at the hockey rink. They said the situation was taken care of professionally and safely, but they feel the events were downplayed by people quoted in the Enterprise’s Jan. 28 article.

Tupper Lake Volunteer Fire Department Chief Royce Cole, who had not been reachable Monday, said carbon monoxide readings were highest on ice level, at 50 parts per million. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s standard to evacuate a location is an average of 50 ppm within an eight-hour period.

A 1972 Zamboni, scheduled for replacement but being used as a backup, was later determined to be the culprit. It has now been decommissioned, according to Dan Bower, business manager of the Tupper Lake Central School District, which owns and runs the civic center.

Brandi Wisner and Marcy Thomson both have sons on the Bobcats. They said they had heard the supervisory alarm beep for around 30 minutes before the building was evacuated. Some players went outside on their knees because they were still wearing skates and didn’t want to dull them on the concrete.

School district Superintendent Seth McGowan had said Monday that the people inside the building were never in any danger because the levels were so low, and that the evacuation was a precautionary measure. Bower had said some people went to the emergency room at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake: some referred by emergency medical technicians and some on their own.

Wisner said she knows of five kids who went to the ER because EMTs told them to.

Thompson said the EMTs were using a pulse oximeter, which measures how much of one’s blood is not saturated with oxygen due to carbon monoxide contact. She said they wanted readings below 7%. Anyone higher was sent outside for fresh air.

Her daughter Lily read high, at 30%, and was put on oxygen. She said Lily was crying but that the EMTs were comforting.

“Ryan was The EMT’s name and he was great!!” Thompson wrote in a Facebook message. “(He) was inside and outside checking on everyone. … He was making the decisions of who had to get oxygen and who had to go to ER.”

After dropping, Lily’s oxygen non-saturation percentage rose again, and she was told to go to the hospital in Saranac Lake. She got a blood test there, which came back at 1%, and she was released to go home. Thompson’s son tested at zero.

Thompson said while they were at the hospital, another family that had already been cleared came back.

“The son was … coming down the stairs, got dizzy and fell down the stairs and hit his head,” Thompson said.

Wisner said she found it “frustrating” that “some things were not being properly spoken about” when she read the article. She said she thought the whole story about the evacuation should be told.

Bower said Tuesday evening he never meant to make it sound like the emergency was not taken seriously. He was at the rink at the time, but the fire department took charge of the situation, and he just shared the limited information he had been told.

Wisner noted that she didn’t see anyone exhibiting effects from the carbon monoxide exposure.

“They seemed fine,” Wisner said. “I guess that’s why they call it the ‘silent killer.'”


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