EXCLUSIVE: Pesticide poisoning could be responsible for striking down four students — three of whom had to be hospitalized — at the Bergen County EMS Training Center in Paramus last night, a source with direct knowledge of the incident told CLIFFVIEW PILOT today.
Despite calls and messages that began this morning, Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan’s administration hasn’t provided any details about last night’s incident, in which four EMT students suddenly collapsed at what is one of the largest ambulance and rescue training facilities in the Northeast.
The morning desk officer for the Bergen County Board of Health — which is responsible for the county Hazardous Materials Unit — referred all questions to Donovan’s office before noon today.
Donovan has been on limited duty after a brief hospitalization for stress fractures in her back. County Administrator Ed Trawinski, who has served as chief executive in her absence, was at a conference and couldn’t be reached, an administrative assistant told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.
As a result, a message was left this morning for Donovan’s chief of staff, Jeanne Baratta.
Baratta finally responded just before 6:30 tonight, saying that she hadn’t heard back from the Health Department and was unaware of what happened.
A student at the East Pascack Road school told CLIFFVIEW PILOT early this morning that officials didn’t evacuate the building last night until nearly a half-hour after the young students were overcome. Roughly 20 other students in the same class were brought to another classroom soon after the incident, he said.
“The rest of the school wasn’t immediately evacuated,” the student told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “We were asking questions, but we were never told that there was a situation going on. We were told to go back to class.
“Whenever something like this happens, you’re supposed to get everyone outside,” said the EMT student, who is also an area firefighter. “People need to be in open air. They can’t be confined in classrooms.”
They were led out about a half-hour later, he said.
Besides the Bergen County hazardous materials team, the incident drew Paramus’s hazmat unit, as well as the Paramus Rescue Team, Paramus police and firefighters, several ambulance crews and a Westwood patrol sergeant, those on the scene told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.