McDonald's owners 'deeply saddened' by death - CBS46 News

McDonald's owners 'deeply saddened' by death

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A McDonald's restaurant has been re-opened after finding toxic fumes coming from one of their bathrooms. (Source: WTOC) A McDonald's restaurant has been re-opened after finding toxic fumes coming from one of their bathrooms. (Source: WTOC)
Nine fire units and nine ambulances were sent to help aid victims who were impacted by the fumes. (Source: WTOC) Nine fire units and nine ambulances were sent to help aid victims who were impacted by the fumes. (Source: WTOC)
Nine victims were sent to a local hospital to check for respiratory problems. (Source: WTOC) Nine victims were sent to a local hospital to check for respiratory problems. (Source: WTOC)

POOLER, GA (RNN) - According to authorities, one person has died and nine people were taken to a local hospital Wednesday after firefighters found toxic fumes coming from a McDonald's bathroom in Pooler, GA.

Anne Felton, 80, of Ponte Verda, FL, died Thursday, according to WTOC-TV. Pooler is located about 13 miles outside Savannah, GA.

It will not be clear if Felton died from the fumes until an autopsy has been performed.

Pooler Fire Chief Wade Simmons said the nine people were taken to Memorial University Medical Center suffering from respiratory problems.

Though the names of the victims haven't been released, Simmons said three firefighters, five McDonald's customers and one employee were sent to the hospital.

McDonald's Franchisees John and Monique Palamccio said their prayers are with the families impacted.

"As the owners of this restaurant, my wife and I are deeply saddened by this tragic incident," they said in a media statement. "The safety of our customers and employees has and will continue to be our number one concern. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families who have been impacted."

The cause is still under investigation, but Simmons said it is still unclear what caused the hazardous fumes.

"There are a lot of theories, but there was nothing we could see, and we were unable to find the cause," he said.  "Possibly during the autopsy there will be for sure answers, but as of now, there is no definitive answer."

One theory is the mix of ammonia and bleach may have caused the fumes, according to Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology Marcus Iszard from the University of Missouri.

"My guess would be the use of ammonia and bleach in combination," he said. "This is truly a very deadly mixture that produces chlorine gas and can immediately overwhelm someone and can be easily ventilated from contaminated areas. A mixture of powdered bleach and liquid ammonia are routinely found in cleaning storage areas in restaurants and office settings."

Two of the victims, including Felton, were found unconscious in the restroom after the woman's husband became concerned, Savannah Now reported. Pooler police said the second victim is listed in good condition.

The three firefighters who helped two victims out of the restroom were released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon. The conditions of the five remaining hospitalized victims are not clear.

"The firefighters were checked for precautionary reasons and wanted to return to their shift," Simmons said.

When the initial call was made, there was no indication it was a hazmat problem. The firefighters were sent for basic medical help and responded wearing their regular uniforms.

"I think it went really well. We don't like the fact they were hurt, but it started as a standard medical call not knowing what exactly was going on," Simmons said. "They did an excellent job, they got victims immediately out, continued until additional help arrived. Everything went very well."

According to WTOC's report, nine fire units from surrounding areas responded, as well as nine ambulances - one for each victim.

The Savannah Hazardous Materials Response Team arrived on scene to make sure the fumes were under control and decontamination could begin.

"The materials team responded out, because we weren't sure how bad the restaurant was contaminated," Simmons said. "We notified the hospitals as the precaution, and the hazmat team didn't find anything out of the ordinary. They used ventilation fans, which forced outside air to clear the fumes, and once it was clear, the restaurant was released to its property owners."

After a thorough on-site investigation and the restaurant was deemed safe, it re-opened Wednesday afternoon, after only a few hours of being closed.

McDonald's is still conducting its own investigation.

"We continue to work with the local authorities to collect more information about what may have happened," John and Monique Palamccio said.

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