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Student Confesses To Releasing Pepper Spray At PCHS: 19 Suffered Respiratory Symptoms


Credit KPCW

The Park City Fire Department was dispatched to Park City High School around 2 p.m. Monday, after students complained about feeling nauseous and having difficulty breathing. The incident was originally thought to be carbon monoxide, but a little after 4 p.m. a school official received a phone call from a student confessing they had released pepper spray into the hallway near the drama room.

Park City Fire Department spokesperson Tricia Hurd Hazelrigg says 19 people reported experiencing respiratory distress and nausea. Four of those students had gone home but contacted the school officials afterward because they were experiencing respiratory symptoms and nausea. A teacher went to the hospital for treatment of symptoms caused by exposure to the pepper spray.

“A student reported to school district personnel that that they had-that, well, really they confessed to releasing pepper spray in the school. So we do know now that the substance was pepper spray which does explain the burning in the lungs and the feeling of nausea etc., the abdominal cramping because it’s very noxious.”

Hazelrigg says six of those evaluated had increased levels of carbon monoxide in their blood, but she says it is unrelated to the pepper spray exposure.

“So, there were six of the 14. We weren’t sure if there was a trend there with the carbon monoxide readings. There were low levels -average of like three to nine. That can be explained by somebody who is exposed to just standing near a vehicle. It could be you know, if they’re in a home that is not well ventilated, or they have problems at home that could even be built up in their system just from being at home and having not clean functioning furnaces. We were concerned that maybe there was a trend there, but I would say there's not.”

Students at the high school had an early-release day, but one student who was attending an after-school drama program said she was so overcome by the substance that she was gasping for air on the ground.

“So, I was walking to a classroom so a classroom-the theater room of mine and I don't know really exactly what happened, but we walked through this part of the hallway and all of a sudden I just started almost choking on air. And, so, I didn’t know what was happening but once I got into the room, I started tearing up like the choking, like I was on the floor. It was kind of incapacitating type of feeling. It was kind of overwhelming.”

Hazelrigg stressed the importance for students and others who have already gone home to call 911 or head to the emergency room if they’re experiencing abdominal cramps or nausea, headache or respiratory issues.

Park City Police Captain Phil Kirk says there will be an investigation into the student who confessed to releasing the pepper spray.