A high concentration of chlorine was released into the wave pool at a waterpark in Sacramento, Calif., Monday afternoon, sending at least 20 people - including nine children and three park employees - to area hospitals. A faulty pump at the privately owned and operated Raging Waters, located at the Cal Expo Fairgrounds, is being blamed. Doug Osborn, spokesman for the Sacramento County Environmental Management Department, told local reporters that when one pump stopped working, it created a backup of chlorine that was flushed out when the secondary pump was turned on.
Lifeguards managed the wave pool, which is expected to remain closed until the accident has been fully investigated.
"It started out with just a few people with complaints of burning respiratory tracts and eyes" and then escalated, Sacramento City Fire Department assistant chief Niko King told the Associated Press. "The water dilutes [chlorine] pretty well. But obviously, because it's so strong, it turns to gas. That's what they're affected by."
Patrons told Sacramento ABC-TV affiliate News10 that people initially panicked as they began to have trouble breathing. "Profuse coughing. You know, like involuntary, my son could not get his breath and they administered oxygen right away," said parent Mark Schiller, whose wife and 5-year-old son were overcome by chlorine fumes. All patients were released from local hospitals by Monday night.
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as Cal/OSHA, dispatched investigators from its amusement ride and tramway unit, and the Sacramento district office of Cal/OSHA was expected to open a separate investigation Tuesday because waterpark workers were injured and exposed to hazardous material.
According to the AP, state records indicate one minor safety violation at Raging Waters since 2008, unrelated to the chlorine system.