Urbana Schools to install CO monitors after gas leak sickens students, staff

UPDATE @ 11:15 p.m. Jan. 12:

Urbana City School District officials plan to install a carbon monoxide detection system after a heating malfunction last Friday sickened dozens of students at Urbana High School.

“We are working with a contractor in the initial stages of determining what type of monitoring system to put in to place so that we are alerted to the presence of increased levels of carbon monoxide,” said district Superintendent Charles Thiel.

Last week, a boiler malfunction is believed to have been behind a CO leak that sent more than a dozen students and a staff member to area hospitals for CO poisoning. Firefighters evaluated at least 44 students complaining of symptoms, fire and school officials said.

UPDATE @ 8:40 p.m. Jan. 6:

Dozens of students and staff were treated for symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning at Urbana High School after an issue was reported with a damper that was being repaired on the school’s furnace system, according to Urbana Superintendent Charles Thiel.

Thiel said a company was working on making a repair when a CO leak was detected. The furnace system had not been heating the school properly, he added.

“Carbon monoxide is one of those quiet, silent deadly killers that can sneak up on you,” Thiel said.

Firefighters evaluated at least 44 students for carbon monoxide poisoning, and 12 were taken to Mercy Memorial Hospital in Urbana for additional treatment, Urbana Fire Chief Mark Keller said.

About four or five students showed clear signs of CO poisoning, he said.

Thiel did not have a specific number, but several of the victims were taken to local hospitals either by medics or family members. Also, he said at least one victim was taken to Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus and another to a Dayton hospital.

Urbana firefighters were called around 10 a.m. on a report of a gas odor. When they arrived, they found extremely high levels of CO. The monitors firefighters use signal an alarm at 35 parts per million, Keller said. The highest levels firefighters found in the school’s oldest building, in the castle complex, were 250 ppm, he said.

Credit: Jeff Guerini

Credit: Jeff Guerini

“At the levels we were at, it wouldn’t have taken too long before they could have had some major medical issues,” Keller said.

Staff and students affected were complaining of headaches, watery eyes and sore throats.

The district made the decision to send students home due to the leak and also because they had to open all the windows at the school, causing the temperatures inside to drop.

Tonight’s basketball game went on as scheduled.

Thiel said the gas leak is an example of why new buildings are needed in the district, and said he is now looking at installing CO detectors in the building.

“This is one of those issues that we’re dealing with, systems and fan motors that are very old,” he said.

Urbana City Schools has started building a new high school, and recently purchased land for a new K-8 building. The projects will cost a combined $68 million.

UPDATE @ 1:06 p.m.:

Officials said a gas leak in a boiler system at the school caused several students to be transported to local hospitals.

We’re working to learn more about their conditions.

UPDATE @ 12:55 p.m.

Parents of students have informed us that multiple students of Urbana High School are being treated at area hospitals for gas exposure. We are working to learn more and confirm these details with district officials.

UPDATE @ 11:59 a.m. 

Students have been released early from Urbana High School due to a gas leak. We are currently working to learn more about the situation.


A possible gas leak has been reported at Urbana High School this morning.

Emergency crews responded around 10:30 a.m. to the building, 500 Washington Ave.

Initial reports indicated crews on the scene discovered high levels of carbon monoxide, according to dispatchers.

Multiple medics have been requested for anyone who may need medical attention, according to initial reports.


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