Irish News

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Children taken to hospital after pool chemical scare

Emma Jane Hade

Published 12/03/2014 | 02:30

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Nadia Chernus with her mum Annette at their home in Maynooth. Nadia was one of the students on the swimming trip to the NUI Maynooth pool. Frank McGrath
A Garda preserves the scene at the swimming pool on the campus of NUI Maynooth. Picture Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin.
A Garda preserves the scene at the swimming pool on the campus of NUI Maynooth. Picture Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin.
The NUIM swimming pool.

A total of 25 school children were exposed to potentially dangerous chemicals during a swimming lesson.

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The teachers accompanying the pupils noticed that they were having breathing difficulties and were coughing, so they guided them from the pool immediately.

All of the pupils involved in the scare at the pool in NUI Maynooth were under the age of nine and from the third and fourth class at the Educate Together National School in the Co Kildare town.

They were evacuated from the pool when the chemicals entered the facilities through the air conditioning system during a maintenance operation shortly after 10.30am yesterday.

Pupils were treated at the scene by university medical staff and paramedics.

A unit from the local fire brigade also attended the scene.

However, six children were later transferred to three different Dublin hospitals for further treatment.

It was expected that all would be released late last night and school principal Marie Hand said there was nothing to cause "any major concern" and that it was "a huge relief".

The remaining 19 pupils had been brought back to the school by paramedics, who met with the worried parents and explained the situation.

A spokesperson for NUI Maynooth confirmed that they had launched an investigation into the incident, along with the Health and Safety Authority.

The swimming pool will also remain closed until further notice.

Principal Ms Hand said that the swimming lesson the students were participating in yesterday was the final session of the year, and that it was the first such incident to occur in the school's six-year history.

"It's the first incident of its kind. We frequently make trips around the area to the castle and playground," she added.

She said that the school "want to make sure that it won't happen again" before they make any decision on whether they will return to the NUIM pool facilities.

She attended the scene and praised the quick thinking from her staff, describing them as "marvellous".

Annette Chernus's daughter Nadia is in third class at the school, and Ms Chernus got a distressing call about the incident while she was shopping in a Tesco store.

The 35-year-old admitted that she feared the worst when she first got the call shortly after 11am.

She explained that because English is her second language she initially thought that there had been an explosion.

"She (the school secretary) was so calm and said that everyone was okay," she said.

"I knew that it (the chemicals) was something that you breathe in so I thought 'what about her lungs?'"

"The paramedics waited in the school for all the parents to come, and then they had a short meeting with us. They went through what was happening with us and what it was all about," she said.

She said that her young daughter first began to feel ill in the water after she felt that "something in the air that was not good".

Nadia (9) told the Irish Independent: "I was scared, it hurt my chest. I was coughing."

The Chernus family moved to Maynooth from their native Norway last July, and plan to stay here until the summer.

Annette and her husband Alexander (36) praised the professional approach from the staff at the school and swimming pool, but are now demanding an explanation.

"I still don't know why it could happen. Was it an accident? Or was it a human failure?" Ms Chernus asked.

Irish Independent

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