Substance identified in hazmat incident

POOLER, GA (WTOC) - An improperly connected carbon dioxide line in the wall that connects to the soda machine was the cause of the hazmat incident last Wednesday at a McDonald's in Pooler, Pooler police said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

"We've been working with the owners of the facility to eliminate different causes. Last night, we were able to determine and found that there was a leak in the carbon dioxide system. Anything else form that we're release as we go," said Chief Wade Simmons, of the Pooler Fire Dept.

Anne Felton, of Ponte Verda, Fla., was in the bathroom at the time of the incident died Thursday. Police Chief Mark Revenew said her death was the result of an accidental discharge of carbon dioxide into the women's restroom.

Carol Barry, 56, of Jacksonville, Fla., had been in critical condition. She has since been released from the hospital. Nine people were taken to the hospital and everyone had to be decontaminated, including three Pooler firefighters.

Revenew said the leak allowed for what's an otherwise harmless gas to dispense in a potentially lethal concentration into the women's restroom.

"According to medical experts, anyone exposed during this incident should not have any long-term effects or any concerns for their personal safety," he said.

Pooler police were able to figure this out after talking with authorities from Phoenix, Ariz., where there was a similar incident with CO2.

Tests had been conducted all week to determine what had made people sick on Sept. 7. They reviewed video to find out when the bathrooms had been cleaned. Authorities said they had made the determination Tuesday night that CO2 was the cause. McDonald's repaired the leak on Tuesday night.

McDonald's reopened on Wednesday morning.

"We have been assured through engineers and industry experts that the restaurant is safe and thereby prevented from this occurring again," Revenew said.

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Statement from John and Monique Palmaccio, McDonald's Franchisees:

As the owners of this restaurant, we are deeply saddened by this tragedy.  Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Felton family, and all those who have been impacted.

We are committed to running safe, welcoming restaurants.  We worked closely with the authorities to determine the cause of this incident and we've taken action to correct the situation.  Authorities have conducted a thorough investigation, and determined that the restaurant is safe.

We are now open for our customers.

Once again, we join our community in extending our condolences to all those affected.

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