Tuesday's incident that sent 11 people to two area hospitals for excessive chlorine inhalation at Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park could have been avoided, Lake Delton police say.
A maintenance employee with 23 years of experience at the park told police he had been working on a filter/pool pump before a larger than normal quantity of sulfuric acid and chlorine was released in the Poseidon's Rage outdoor wave pool.
Lake Delton police and Dells-Delton EMS were called to the water park at 6:49 p.m. Tuesday for a report of three people having problems breathing. Eventually, eight people were taken to St. Clare Hospital in Baraboo and three were transported to Reedsburg Area Medical Center.
The employee told police he has never had an incident like this and felt "terrible" for what happened, a police report states.
Owner Nick Laskaris called police after speaking with the maintenance worker. Laskaris said he and his employee believed the cause to be a mechanical failure.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Laskaris said this is the first time something like this has ever happened at the park.
"We have a great safety record," he said. "This was a fluke. It's unexplainable."
But the police report tells a different story.
Laskaris told the responding officer that a wire was not connected, and if it would've been connected it would've shut off the chemical pumps to the other pool/filter pumps.
Police called the employee and asked him to explain what happened. The employee said there is a control system that turns off the chemical pumps when the pool/filter pumps are turned off or not running. The control system for this particular pump was not working because a wire had become dislodged.
The employee told the officer he always manually turns off the chemical pumps whenever he turns off any of the pool/pump filters, but in this incident, he did not manually turn off the chemical pumps. As a result, the chemical pumps remained operational even though they were supplying a pump that was turned off, causing the buildup and subsequent release of chlorine and sulfuric acid into the wave pool.
St. Clare Hospital spokesman Steve Van Dinter said the eight people treated there - five adults and three children - were between ages 3 and 50 and were brought to the hospital between 7:20 p.m. and 7:50 p.m. Tuesday.
Van Dinter said the patients were treated for exposure to chlorine and sulfuric acid.
"The patients that were brought to us all had symptoms characteristic to chemical exposure, such as throat irritation and nausea," Van Dinter said. "Everybody had nebulizer treatments and some were treated with nausea medicine. We continued to monitor them while they were here to make sure they were doing better and then they were allowed to go home about four hours later."
Van Dinter said nebulizer treatments allow patients to breathe in a mist of medications, which helps to open their airways and allows them to breathe easier. He said the injuries were not life-threatening.
If needed, St. Clare can treat more victims for chemical exposure, Van Dinter said.
"On an average day in the summer we see about 55 patients come through our emergency room and can handle more than a 100," he said.
Van Dinter said St. Clare has 12 emergency room beds, plus additional beds and equipment available in the event of a crisis.
"We are prepared to treat more people for chemical exposure if the need arises," he said.
The three people taken to Reedsburg Area Medical Center were treated and released, said Carmen Luther, assistant manager of the Emergency Department.
Laskaris said he is grateful the water park guests were not seriously injured.
"Our first concern is the safety of our guests, and we will take all actions necessary to ensure that all attractions operate in a safe manner," he said.
When asked whether there would be any additional investigation - or whether charges would be filed - Lake Delton Police Chief Thomas Dorner said this event was nothing he would consider criminal or malicious in nature.
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