18 people hospitalized after chlorine spill near school

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Hazmat crews and paramedics were aiding students and faculty after a chemical odor was detected on a school campus in Santee.

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SANTEE, Calif. — An apparent chlorine leak at an East County YMCA sickened more than 70 children and several teachers at a nearby primary school Tuesday and sent them to hospitals for precautionary exams.

Children and employees at Rio Seco Elementary School in Santee began smelling a caustic odor and complaining of nausea, stinging eyes and mild shortness of breath about 8:30 a.m., according to sheriff’s officials.

Medics took 15 students and three school staffers to hospitals to be checked out for apparently minor chemical-exposure symptoms, Santee fire Chief Richard Mattick told reporters. All the patients were listed in stable condition.

As of late morning, medics had evaluated 77 students and four teachers at the Cuyamaca Street campus, school officials said.

Officials had unaffected students remain in their classrooms as public safety crews worked to identify the source of the fumes.

A hazardous materials team was summoned to investigate the bleach-like smell, which was believed to have wafted over from a pool area at the nearby community center, according to Mattick.

Deputies closed Cuyamaca Street between Mast Boulevard and Mission Creek Drive while crews handled the emergency. Motorists were advised to avoid the area until further notice.

Any parents who would like to check out their child for early release may do so by parking at the Food-4-Less parking lot along Cuyamaca Street and walking to Rio Seco Elementary. Sheriff’s deputies will then direct parents to the Multi-Purpose Room for early release procedures

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