Possible bear spray used during fight at St. John's high school, sending students to hospital

Some sort of aerosol — possibly bear spray — was deployed this morning at Prince of Wales Collegiate in St. John's, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has confirmed.

Police estimate as many as 15 to 20 students came into contact with the spray

Paramedics take a stretcher from Prince of Wales Collegiate in St. John's on Wednesday. Police say as many as 15 to 20 students were affected by the discharge of an aerosol, possibly bear spray, but no one was seriously injured. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

A St. John's high school was put in secure mode Wednesday when a fight between several students escalated, resulting in more than a dozen students being hit by bear or pepper spray.

A group of Prince of Wales Collegiate students told CBC News they walked outside at lunch time and saw a fight between two rival groups in the school.

Some sort of aerosol — possibly bear spray — was deployed Wednesday morning at Prince of Wales Collegiate in St. John's, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has confirmed. 0:20

They saw one student reach into his pocket, pull out a cannister and begin spraying. Moments later, dozens of bystanders were struck by a cloud of stinging spray, carried by the wind.

"As everybody was getting close, he came out of his pocket and sprayed it everywhere in everybody's faces," said student Walter Deering. "It was just everywhere. I had to run away because it was just too much."

Raymond Chaulk, a student at Prince of Wales Collegiate in St. John's, says he was struck by a cloud of green smoke when he walked outside on Wednesday. Police say it was bear spray or pepper spray. (Gary Locke/CBC)

"It stung a lot. It just hurt," said witness Raymond Chaulk. "You couldn't open your eyes, your mouth. You just needed water in it right away."

"There was even people taking off their shirts," said fellow student Stephen Young, putting his hands up to show how they covered their faces.

"Everybody was passing out water bottles and pouring it in their eyes and everything."

Seven ambulances and five police cruisers showed up on scene within minutes. Paramedics treated students and one was taken to hospital. Police say no one was seriously injured.

"Secure mode," as opposed to a lockdown, is when a school locks its outside doors, but students and staff inside may move from class to class. A lockdown involves locking classroom doors and having students move away from windows and doors.

'Weapons' used in fight, says RNC officer

While the RNC says 15 to 20 students were affected, several witnesses said that number was more like 50 to 100, with mostly minor reactions to the aerosol spray.

Police say "weapons" were used in the fight, but are not identifying anything other than the cannister of bear spray or pepper spray. Some students told CBC News that a golf club was used, while others said they saw a baseball bat.

Police and ambulances at Prince of Wales Collegiate high school in St. John's after bear spray was reportedly used during a fight between students. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

Stories spread quickly and details are loose in a high school setting, said RNC media relations officer Geoff Higdon. As a result, their investigation could be difficult.

Police are urging parents to speak with their children about the fight to see if they caught it on their phones.

"If they do have video of the incident, that could be of great benefit to our investigators and we'd encourage them to come forward to us."

With files from Fred Hutton

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About the Author

Ryan Cooke

Ryan Cooke works for CBC out of its bureau in St. John's.