More Than 80 Stricken By Carbon Monoxide At Gunnison Ice Rink

Two Patients Airlifted To Denver

More than 80 people who took part in a youth hockey tournament in Gunnison were treated for varying degrees of carbon monoxide poisoning Sunday.

Gunnison Fire Marshal Dennis Spritzer told 7NEWS that officials are looking at a possible mechanical failure in the air exchange system at Jorgenson Park Ice Rink as the potential cause.

"There may have been a problem with a damper," Spritzer said. "We're still trying to isolate the cause."

Several players and their family members told 7NEWS that they could tell something was wrong.

"As soon as you walked in, you got a headache," said Susie Streeter, team manager of the Colorado Junior Eagles. Her team arrived at the rink Saturday night.

The girls played a game Sunday at 9:30 a.m. They had a second game at 12:30 p.m.

"We could kind of smell gas around the rink, especially in the locker room, the whole time we were there," Streeter said. "We asked a couple people, and they said that was normal."

Streeter said, during a break between the second and third periods of the afternoon game, some of the players laid down on the ice.

"I could see that something was wrong, so I went over to the bench and several of them said they were going to throw up," Streeter said. "I thought they were dehydrated. I gave them Gatorade."

"None of us felt very good," said Lauren Johnson, one of the players. "After the game, I went into the locker room and, like, blacked out."

Chaos ensued.

"I just started, like, freaking out and started crying," said fellow player, MacKenzie Guttormson. "We were all rushed outside to the fresh air."

Streeter said that once hockey officials figured out what the problem was, they told dispatch to bring as many ambulances as they could."

Sixty-one victims were treated at Gunnison Valley Health Hospital, according to the fire marshal.

Two of them, Guttormson and Johnson, were airlifted to Denver where they were treated in the hyperbaric chamber at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center. Dr. Bill Clem said the pressurized chamber restores a patient's oxygen levels and reduces carbon monoxide as quickly as possible.

Clem said both patients are expected to fully recover.

An additional 24 victims, who left the ice rink before the problem was identified, were contacted and advised to seek treatment at their local hospital. Those 24 were treated and released from The Memorial Hospital at Craig.

"It was pretty scary for everyone," said Streeter.

Other Teams Affected

Teams from Moffat County and Crested Butte played between the girls games and also had to be tested, treated and put on oxygen, some parents said.

One parent told 7NEWS, "Some of our players didn't even make it back to Craig, they stopped in Grand Junction and had to be placed on oxygen."

"Everyone -- players, siblings and parents that were there had to be tested once we reached Craig, and additional people had to be placed on oxygen and had to have follow ups this morning," said the parent said.

Hospital officials in Gunnison, Craig and Denver told 7NEWS that none of the victims face life-threatening injuries.

Ice Rink Did Not Have Carbon Monoxide Detector

Spritzer said the ice rink did not have a carbon monoxide detector and was not required to by law.

"I can't believe they don't have carbon monoxide detectors in that rink," said Judy Johnson, Lauren's mom. "Zambonis are going around. It's like driving a car around inside."

Spritzer said that, after this incident, monoxide detectors will be installed in the ice rink "and will be tied in to the fire alarm system."

He said the rink will remain closed until they determine the cause of the problem and get it fixed.

This isn't the first time that Colorado hockey players have been overcome with carbon monoxide.

In January 2009, at least 14 players and parents were hospitalized after a game at the Mountain States Ice Arena in Greeley.

Investigators traced the problem to a gas powered ice edger that was being used while the arena doors were closed.

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