Nfld. & Labrador

Nearly 80 sought treatment after possible arena gas leak, says health authority

Eastern Health says nearly 80 people went to hospital following a suspected gas leak at a St. John's hockey arena Friday night.

Eastern Health still encouraging anyone with symptoms to visit hospital

The Bussey Arena in St. John's closed on Friday evening after a suspected gas leak. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Eastern Health says nearly 80 people went to hospital following a suspected gas leak at a St. John's hockey arena Friday night, resulting in a "code orange" alert at the city's three hospitals.

A code orange prepares hospital staff in the event of a disaster or other serious incident.

The possible exposure occurred at the Bussey Arena on Bonaventure Avenue.

In a statement to CBC News, the health authority said 79 people sought treatment for possible carbon monoxide exposure after the incident that closed the arena.

As many as 45 people had gone to hospital as of 9:45 p.m Friday.

Eastern Health said the code orange was ended at St. Clare's Mercy Hospital and the Janeway children's hospital at 12 a.m. Saturday. It ended at the Health Sciences Centre at 1 a.m.

The health authority is still encouraging anyone who was at the arena on Friday, and is experiencing symptoms such as nausea, headaches and dizziness, to seek medical care at the nearest emergency department.

Carbon monoxide poisoning carries a long-term health risk if left untreated. At low levels, exposure symptoms can be confused with the flu or food poisoning, Eastern Health stated.

A safety bulletin posted on the web site of the provincial department Service NL says carbon monoxide is produced "from the incomplete combustion of fuels, such as gasoline, diesel and propane, which are commonly used in ice resurfacing equipment (eg. zambonis)."

The bulletin said if equipment is malfunctioning carbon monoxide can be emitted in higher concentrations, which can be made worse by inadequate ventilation or a lack of carbon monoxide monitors.

The arena's office told CBC News Friday that propane levels were slightly higher than usual, and that the rink closed down as a precaution.

Players and coaches OK

Craig Tulk, executive director of HockeyNL, said that he has spoken with representatives from all four teams that played in the bantam AAA provincial tournament in the arena on Friday, and all players and coaches are in good health.

Tulk said a malfunctioning zamboni was likely the source of the problem and said the hockey association works to provide safe rinks for everyone.

"We certainly work with all of our arenas in relation to ensuring that we're in a safe environment," he said.

"We're quite pleased with how quick people reacted to it."

Tulk said the tournament will continue elsewhere, as organizers were able to find ice time in other arenas in the St. John's area.

Some hockey practices were also cancelled Saturday morning at the Bussey Arena following the suspected leak.

CBC News has reached out to arena staff but has not received a response.

It's unclear when the arena will reopen.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

with files from Kenny Sharpe