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Girls Made Ill by Fumes Better Now : 43 Go to Hospitals From Camp School

Times Staff Writer

Forty-three sixth-grade girls, who inhaled fumes from a faulty heater in their cabin at the Cuyamaca Outdoor School while they slept Monday night, escaped injury, and all had been released from hospitals by early Wednesday morning, authorities said.

The last group of eight 11- and 12-year-old girls from Twin Peaks Middle School in Poway, Bostonia Elementary School in El Cajon and San Luis Rey Elementary School in Oceanside were released just after 3 a.m. Wednesday after undergoing 2 1/2-hour treatments in a hyperbaric chamber, said Grossmont Hospital spokeswoman Sharon Ross.

The chamber creates a higher barometric pressure that enables patients to absorb oxygen quickly in their blood and rid it of the carbon monoxide, Ross said.

Gas Heater Blamed

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The gas apparently escaped from a propane heater in the cabin, according to the school’s principal, Jerry Mercia-Jones.

At 3 a.m. Tuesday, some of the girls in the cabin awoke sick and vomited. Others complained that morning to the school’s nurse of feeling nauseated and having headaches.

A first group of 30 girls was treated in Grossmont Hospital’s hyperbaric chamber just after 3 p.m. Tuesday after they were checked at AMI Valley Medical Center in El Cajon and were found to have a high concentration of carbon monoxide in their blood, Ross said.

Because Grossmont Hospital’s hyperbaric chamber holds nine people at a time, the 13 other girls were referred to other hospitals with chambers, Ross said.

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Seven of those 11 were treated and released about midnight Tuesday at UC San Diego Medical Center and Alvarado Community Hospital.

Two were sent to Mercy Hospital but did not have to be treated, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

School officials, meanwhile, said that 27 of the 43 girls had returned to camp Wednesday.

Doug Langdon, spokesman for the San Diego County Office of Education, said eight of the students said they were not going back to the camp. Another eight have yet to decide, he said.

The girls were in their second day of a weeklong camp where they study science in a mountain environment. The camp is operated by the San Diego County Office of Education.


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