Marion County firefighters and sheriff’s deputies scrambled to Lake Weir High School on Wednesday after multiple people reported having difficulty breathing.
The first responders received the call at 1:17 p.m. and while they were en route to the facility, located at 10351 S.E. Maricamp Rd. in Ocala, the school resource officer responded to the building and determined students and staff needed to be evacuated from the rooms.
Firefighters from Silver Springs Shores Station #17 were the first to arrive at the school and they reported to the nurse’s office to begin triaging patients. It was determined that seven people needed medical care, with five of those – one adult and four students – being transported to local hospitals. A parent also took a fifth student to the hospital.
The Marion County Fire Rescue Special Operations HAZMAT Team responded to the school and entered the building to conduct air monitoring tests. The air quality tests didn’t show anything toxic and the cause of the incident was eventually determined to be a faulty air conditioning unit.
Principal Colleen Wade released a statement about the incident that was posted on the Marion County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page. She said that after lunch, the malfunctioning air conditioning unit sent fumes into a classroom, which was quickly evacuated.
“Fortunately, no one was seriously injured in this incident,” Wade said. “We did have a large emergency response with dozens of police and fire vehicles on campus … all to ensure everyone was safe.”
Wade offered praise for the staff members and students who took quick action during the incident.
“Our team did a great job and our students knew exactly what to do in this situation,” she said. “We train for it, and today, we put that training to the test.”
Wade also assured parents that the campus quickly returned to normal and there was no need for further concern.
“Students are back in class and learning has resumed,” she said in the early afternoon statement.