The last place you would expect to have something like this happen would be in the midst of a school-wide prayer service, but that is exactly what happened at one Florida High Schoool after they had gathered for their Thanksgiving service. 27 students and one teacher have been hospitalized after falling ill from exposure to an unknown substance. HAZMAT crews were dispatched to the scene.
Early in the day, Cardinal Gibbons High School officials took to Facebook to explain the situation to family and the community:
“Parents and community members, earlier this morning, students fell ill during our Thanksgiving Prayer Service. In an abundance of caution, we are currently on lockdown, as mandated by the Fort Lauderdale Fire Department, while the state of our gymnasium is assessed. The gymnasium and adjacent cafeteria have been isolated.
"ALL students are currently safe in their respective classrooms, as mandated by the battalion chief.
"We ask for your cooperation and understanding, as we wait for the fire department to complete their investigation. We ask that all parents refrain from coming to campus to pick up their children until the campus has been cleared by Fort Lauderdale Fire Department. We will continue to keep you updated as more information becomes available.
"Thank you for your time and understanding. God bless.”
By Monday afternoon 26 students and 1 staff member at Cardinal Gibbons High School had been hospitalized with symptoms ranging from headaches and shortness of breath to nosebleeds, seizures and passing out, officials said.
After students returned to their classrooms that’s when the adverse symptoms started to take hold, Gollan said.
Some students experienced seizures and shortness of breath, others had nosebleeds and some passed out, Gollan said.
The students who got sick were different ages, different grades, in different classrooms and from varying social groups, Gollan said.
All of that helped rule out a possible prank or drug-induced sickness, he said. “It was too many students and too widespread.”
Victims were taken to Broward Health Medical Center and Holy Cross Hospital for treatment. The school issued a second statement on Facebook once the building was cleared later in the day.
"The Cardinal Gibbons campus has been cleared by the Fort Lauderdale Fire Department and all students have been released for pick up. We ask that all drivers approaching campus and all students being picked up by their parents exercise caution, as the parking lot and roads surrounding Cardinal Gibbons may be congested.
"We would like to thank all of our students and parents for their patience and understanding throughout the day."
No word as to the conditions of those who fell ill. More information will be released as it becomes available.
Will you join us in praying for all those affected by today's incident?