Royal Inland Hospital launched a code orange Saturday afternoon when dozens of people came through the emergency department with carbon monoxide poisoning.
By Sunday morning, 50 people had gone through the ER needing oxygen treatment for symptoms of vomiting, headaches, dizziness, confusion and heart palpitations.
The cause of the distress was a faulty boiler, which was leaking the hazardous fumes at the privately owned Ice Box Arena on Dene Drive.
"It can kill you," said Chris Narver, a victim of the poisoning. "It could've been very bad given the chance."
Eight hockey teams had gathered from all over B.C. Friday and Saturday for the 12th annual Pacific Challenge between the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
A DFO employee, Narver of Kamloops said his team was taking the ice at around 3 p.m. when another teams' players approached their team asking them how they felt.
"They asked if we were feeling sick, and everybody nodded, everybody was feeling unwell," said Narver.
The team played nonetheless but it soon became obvious there was a serious problem when St. John's Ambulance arrived to take carbon monoxide readings.
At about 3:45 p.m. they evacuated the building.
"It was just like 'Get off the ice now. Evacuate the building,'" said Narver, who heard that the readings were close to 200 parts per million.
That level of exposure is deemed deadly once eight hours has passed, according to international poison control centre reports.
"Some guys were (at the arena) for probably eight hours and they were really sick," said Narver.
Police, Kamloops Fire Rescue and ambulances from as far as Logan Lake were dispatched to transport the worse off to hospital. At 4:30 p.m. the hospital issued an orange alert as more than a dozen patients arrived by ambulance and two dozen more trickled in on their own.
Since the Pacific Challenge hockey tournament is followed up by a golf tournament at Mount Paul, St. John's Ambulance paramedics sought out more patients on the links.
"There were people who ended up leaving the golf course and going to the hospital," said Narver.
By morning, hospital staff had treated 50 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, said Darshan Lindsay Interior Health public affairs manager. Three patients were held overnight for treatment and observation and by Sunday afternoon, everyone had been discharged.
"Kamloops Hospital did a great job of having everything ready," said Narver. "Kudos to all the police, fire, ambulance attendants and hospital staff."
Fortis B.C. determined the faulty boiler was the culprit. Technicians turned off the boiler's shut off valve and "red tagged" it so only a licenced gas fitter can remove the tag to make the necessary repairs, said company communications director Joyce Wagenaar.
Fortis also followed its protocol to contact the B.C. Safety Authority when a red tag is issued.
The B.C. Safety Authority will be looking into technical failures related to the boiler's installation, operation and maintenance. Safety officers with expertise in the boiler and gas technologies are investigating the incident. It's unclear when conclusions will be reached, said spokesperson Kelly Haddon.
Calls to the arena's owner were not returned. An arena staff member reached by phone said owners should be "left alone" until they were ready to speak publicly Monday.
By Sunday afternoon, Narver was feeling better but "not 100 per cent," saying it may take a few days to feel completely well.
Meanwhile, although the tournament has been held at the Ice Box for years with no problems, organizers will determine whether to return for the 13th annual event.
"That's to be discussed at a later date."
© Kamloops Daily News