West Newbury

Refrigerant Leak at West Newbury School Triggers Evacuation, Sends Four Students to the Hospital

Investigators determined the source of the smell that triggered the emergency response was a refrigerant leak from a rooftop HVAC unit

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After a report of a strange odor on the third floor of a school in West Newbury, Massachusetts, four students were taken to the hospital as first responders investigated the source of the smell, officials said Monday morning.

The West Newbury Fire Department said just before 10 a.m. that it had crews on scene investigating at Pentucket Regional on Main Street, which has been evacuated as a precaution.

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In an afternoon update, officials said investigators determined the source of the smell was a refrigerant leak from a rooftop HVAC unit.

Initial reports from fire officials said that 10 people were being transported, a number that was said to be quickly changing at the time. An afternoon update from officials said 39 students were evaluated. Ultimately two students were taken to the hospital by ambulance and two others were taken by parents. Their symptoms included nausea and throat irritation.

No faculty or staff required treatment.

The report of the odor came from the third floor of the middle school - a seventh grade science lab. The Middle School wing of the building was vented. The school complex houses both a middle and high school.

Classes were canceled for the remainder of the day and after-school activities were postponed. School officials are awaiting an update from first responders to let students back into the building for their things.

The leaking HVAC unit has been turned off and will be repaired.

West Newbury is a town of less than 5,000 people in Essex County.

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