Saturday 25 October 2014

'She felt sick. There was something in the air that was not good'

Emma Jane Hade

Published 11/03/2014 | 17:29

Nine year old Nadia Chernus pictured with her Mum Annette, at their home in Maynooth. Nadia is a 3rd class student in Educate Together Maynooth as was one of the students who was o the swimming trip to the NUI Maynooth swimming pool Pic Frank Mc Grath
The Educate Together school in Maynooth. Inset: Marie Hand, principal of The Educate Together Maynooth

Annette Chernus described her fear of the moment when she got that phonecall from the school informing her of the incident.

Some 25 primary school children, all under the age of nine, were at a swim class at NUI Maynooth when they were evacuated after they were exposed to chemicals after a maintenance leak.

The principal of the school involved confirmed to that two children were being assessed at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, two in Tallaght and two in Temple Street this afternoon.

Marie Hand, principal of Educate Together in Maynooth said that a total of 25 kids from third and fourth class were in the pool when the incident occurred - and they started complaining about vapours

Annette's daughter Nadia is a third class pupil in the primary school, and was one of the 25 students that were exposed to the potentially dangerous chemicals.

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

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

The Norwegian native said that her nine-year-old daughter began to fell ill in the water and was coughing, but thankfully did not require further medical attention.

She then went to the school to collect her, where the paramedics met with worried parents and explained to them what exactly had happened.

"She felt sick, like there was something in the air that was not good.

"The paramedics in the school waited for all the parents to come and then they had a short meeting with us.  They went through what was happening, and what it is all about," the 35-year-old said.

The mother of two moved to Maynooth, Co Kildare her husband Alexander last July.

They now would like to know what exactly caused the incident.

"I still don't know what happened.  Was it an accident or human failure? I don't know," she added.

It’s understood the incident occurred at approximately 10.30am this morning.

One unit of Kildare Fire Brigade attended the scene, according to a spokesperson for Kildare Fire Brigade.

A triage was established close to the scene and a doctor and nurse from the nearby NUI campus attended.

NUI Maynooth released a statement, saying: "NUI Maynooth can confirm an incident occurred at approximately 10.30am this morning at the campus swimming pool when vapour from the swimming pool’s plant room entered the air conditioning system during a maintenance operation. 

"The swimming pool was immediately evacuated and 25 children present were assessed by both the University’s Medical Team and the National Ambulance Service. Due to the age of the children (under nine) they were brought to hospital to be assessed. 19 children have since returned to their school with 6 children remaining in hospital as a precautionary measure.

This incident is being investigated by the University and the Health & Safety Authority."

The children from the Educate Together school have been taking part in a six-week swimming course at the university.

The incident has also been reported to the Healthy and Safety Authority who told that the matter has been assigned to relevant inspectors.

According to a HSA spokesperson: “We understand that a number of children were suffering respiratory problems and the emergency services and gardai were called.”

“The authorities then contacted us and we will be dealing with the matter if there are any workplace safety issues.”

“Assigned HSA inspectors will be visiting the scene and an investigation is underway.”

The HSE National Ambulance Service later released a statement regarding the incident.

"Approximately 15 response units attended the scene including ambulances and rapid response vehicles. 25 children were assessed on the scene."

"Six children were transferred by the NAS to hospital for observation. Two children were transferred to Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, two children to Tallaght Hospital and two children to Children's University Hospital, Temple St."

"The remaining children did not require further treatment and were reunited with their families," read the HSE statement.

The children brought to hospital today in relation to the incident will all be discharged this evening.

Emma Jane Hade & Louise Kelly & Caitlin McBride & Geraldine Gittens

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