Gas leak hospitalizes Roaring Fork hoops team in Steamboat
December 16, 2002
The Roaring Fork High girls basketball team was treated at a Steamboat Springs hospital Friday after suffering mild carbon monoxide poisoning.
The team ? 10 girls and three coaches ? fell ill early Friday after spending the night in a Steamboat Springs condominium. A gas leak caused by a broken flue pipe connected to the home’s boiler was the culprit, according to a preliminary investigation by Steamboat fire officials.
Roaring Fork traveled to Steamboat Springs for the annual Steamboat Shoot-Out basketball tournament.
After a late game Thursday night, the team retired to the condo it had rented for the weekend ? the same condo, parents say, that the team rented during last year’s tournament.
James Udall, father of player Tarn Udall, said his daughter was one of the first to fall ill. After waking up around 2 a.m. with a headache and overwhelming nausea, Tarn noticed her teammates losing sleep due to the same symptoms.
“She called downstairs [from her bedroom], and everybody had vicious headaches,” James Udall said.
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The team dismissed the illness as food poisoning and went back to sleep. However, after reporting their headaches to coaches a few hours later, the group began to suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.
Sgt. Joel Rae of the Steamboat Springs Police Department said the department received a coach’s 911 call around 8:45 a.m. Friday.
The group was advised to evacuate the condo immediately, and two ambulances were dispatched to transport the team to nearby Yampa Valley Medical Center.
The group, still in their pajamas, spent nearly four hours with oxygen tanks in order to clear their blood streams of the poisonous gas.
“They took the kids to the hospital by ambulance as a precaution ? they were all walking at that point ? and put them all on oxygen until the headaches and nausea went away,” said Roaring Fork Principal Wendy Moore.
Though a hospital spokesperson described the incident as a “mild case” of carbon monoxide poisoning, Rae said the amount of gas almost called for more serious treatment.
“If the saturation levels were any higher,” the team would have been flown to Denver, he said.
The team was released from the hospital early Friday afternoon with a warning from physicians: avoid physical exertion for at least 24 hours. The team bowed out of tournament play Friday, but was back on the court Saturday afternoon for two Steamboat Shoot-Out games, including one against rival Aspen.
Moore said the team had moved to another condominium complex by Friday afternoon.
“I think they’re fine now. Kids are kids,” Moore said. “They’re probably pretty tired, but I think that they’re feeling better.”
Udall described his daughter as “alert and cogent” when she phoned Friday to check in, but conceded that the weekend could have been much worse.
“If they hadn’t gone to bed so late in the evening, or it took them longer to figure out what was going on … it might not have turned out so pleasantly,” Udall said.
He also wondered why the condo, a frequent rental for visiting skiers and sports teams, wouldn’t include certain alarms for the safety of its occupants.
“I’m surprised that this house didn’t have carbon monoxide detectors,” Udall said.
Rae said the Steamboat Springs fire marshal would continue his investigation of the home later this week. Meanwhile, the condo will not be cleared for occupancy again until an inspection by the Routt County Building Department.
[Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is email@example.com]