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updated: 6/2/2014 5:50 PM

Wheaton students taken to hospital after gas leak

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A Wheaton middle school was evacuated for more than an hour Monday and 30 students were taken to area hospitals when a gas leak and a burning smell caused them to feel sick, authorities said.

A small gas leak started around lunchtime Monday in a science classroom at Edison Middle School, 1125 S. Wheaton Ave., said Erica Loiacono, spokeswoman for Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200.

About the same time, a power outage that affected the school and nearby areas caused a motor in the air conditioning system to start smelling like it was burning, Loiacono and Wheaton Fire Department officials said.

Paramedics arriving at the scene around noon took 29 students to area hospitals complaining of headaches and feeling lightheaded.

Loiacono said nine other students were treated at the scene and released to their parents. One of those students later was taken by a parent to Edward Hospital in Naperville, spokesman Keith Hartenberger said. Loiacono was not aware of any staff members needing treatment.

The majority of the students who needed medical attention were taken to Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, Adventist GlenOaks Hospital in Glendale Heights or Edward Hospital, and almost all had been treated and released by late Monday afternoon, hospital officials said.

Wheaton Fire Chief Bill Schultz said the gas leak -- not the burning smell -- was what caused the students to feel ill.

After the leak was discovered about noon, roughly 700 students at Edison and staff members followed evacuation procedures and left the building for fields near the school. They were outside for more than an hour before the fire department secured the gas leak, fixed the burning smell from the air conditioning system and cleared them to return inside about 1:20 p.m., authorities said.

The cause of the gas leak was unknown as of Monday afternoon, but Loiacono said it was contained to the classroom where it began.

The power outage, which created a partial loss of electricity at Edison as well as an outage at District 200's school service center, caused all phone lines and email accounts throughout the district to be out of service. The district notified Edison parents about the evacuation by 2 p.m., but calls made to the school Monday afternoon could not to get through.

Because of the ongoing power outage, all after-school activities at Edison were canceled, Loiacono said. Classes at Edison will be back in session Tuesday.

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