Accidental carbon dioxide release at LAX leaves 4 workers sick, including one in critical condition

Fire Department first responders in helmets and gear stand near vehicles.
First responders at Los Angeles International Airport, where a carbon dioxide leak left four workers sick Monday.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

A carbon dioxide leak at Los Angeles International Airport left four workers sick Monday morning, including one man in critical condition, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The LAFD said workers in a small, subterranean electrical room about 200 feet from the Terminal 8 Baggage Area heard a “popping sound” around 7 a.m., which coincided with the release of the carbon dioxide vapor. A hazardous materials team was dispatched to the airport to investigate the situation.

Three men and one woman were working in the underground room and were sickened, the LAFD said. Three of the contract employees quickly exited the room, but a 36-year-old man was not able to get out as fast and was found not breathing and without a pulse when first responders arrived, according to LAFD spokesman Erik Scott. The man was first identified incorrectly by LAFD as being in his 50s. First responders with the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Airport Police performed CPR on the man and he was taken to a hospital, where his pulse was revived.

His condition was updated from grave to critical and he is now breathing on his own, according to Scott.

First responders in helmets and gear congregate outside a building.
No passengers were medically affected by the carbon dioxide leak at Los Angeles International Airport, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. Above, first responders investigate the scene where a carbon dioxide leak occurred Monday at LAX.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

The carbon dioxide was accidentally released but is properly used to fight fires in the electrical room without destroying equipment with water, Scott said. If there were a fire, the gas could be released and replace the oxygen in the room, extinguishing a fire, he explained. But in this case, it left the workers with no air to breathe.


It was not immediately clear why the carbon dioxide was released Monday while the workers were in the room.

A person fled after trying to bring pills hidden in candy packaging through a security checkpoint “with the intent of boarding a plane,” according to the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.

Oct. 19, 2022

Airport officials moved about 100 people from Terminal 8 to Terminal 7, the LAFD said. No passengers were medically affected by the leak, the department said. The electrical room is at the end of a dead-end hallway, Scott said.

The airport said in a tweet that it was clearing Terminal 8 of passengers and sending them to Terminal 7 for “screening and access” as the LAFD investigated.

A firefighter sits on a still baggage conveyor behind yellow tape that reads, "Fire line do not cross."
A firefighter sits on a baggage conveyor at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday..
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Passengers will not immediately be brought back to the terminal as the LAFD continues to investigate what caused the leak. United Airlines flights, which usually land at Terminal 8, are being diverted to Terminal 7, an LAX Airport Police official said.

“This is under control,” Scott said at a news conference at the airport Monday morning. “We need to reset that [carbon dioxide] system. Make sure it’s up and functioning properly before we can repopulate people in here.”


The chase began before 11:30 a.m. when San Diego police attempted to pull over a vehicle that reportedly sped off onto the freeway.

Oct. 20, 2022

Scott said the situation is not escalating at this time.

Trace amounts of the gas remained in the utility room around 9 a.m. Monday, the LAFD said.

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health is investigating the incident.