Multiple children sickened after carbon monoxide leak at Allentown day care

The fire chief said it turned into a massive emergency response as multiple people were showing symptoms.

Walter Perez Image
Wednesday, October 12, 2022
Carbon monoxide leak sickens multiple children at Allentown day care
Multiple children have been sickened after a carbon monoxide leak at a day care in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

ALLENTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Action News has learned a malfunctioning furnace caused a carbon monoxide leak that sickened more than two dozen people, children and adults, at a day care facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

The incident was reported Tuesday morning at Happy Smiles Learning Center in the 400 block of Wabash Street.

Emergency crews responded to a 911 call for an unconscious child.

The owner of the day care center, Jesenia Gautreaux, says she was on her way to the facility when she received a call from an employee right around 7:30 a.m. saying there was something wrong with one of the children.

"All of a sudden he just collapsed. They tried to bring him back, but he was just not responding. So my staff called 911 right away," Gautreaux said.

Captain John Christopher of the Allentown Fire Department said when firefighters and EMTs arrived on the scene, monitors on their bags alerted them of the carbon monoxide leak.

The center was completely evacuated as a result.

The fire chief said it turned into a massive emergency response as multiple people were showing symptoms.

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Multiple children were placed on stretchers, as more waited to be transported.

Authorities said a total of 32 people, 28 children and 4 adults, were taken to four hospitals in the Lehigh Valley.

Several of the kids have been transferred to Philadelphia hospitals for treatment with hyperbaric oxygen.

Nineteen of the patients had CO levels in their blood ten times higher than normal.

Action News is told all of the victims, including the child who passed out, are listed in stable condition. We've also learned there were no functioning carbon monoxide detectors inside the day care.

It turns out, the city of Allentown passed a statute a few months ago mandating day care facilities all be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors.

Pictured: The scene at Happy Smiles Learning Center in Allentown, Pa. on Tuesday morning.

But the deadline for day care operators to install those detectors is October 27 - a bit more than two weeks away.

That's why Happy Smiles Learning Center was able to pass inspection this past summer without a CO detector.

Allentown officials say they passed the ordinance on the local level because a statewide bill requiring daycare facilities to install CO monitors remains stalled in Harrisburg.

Meanwhile, Gautreaux says she has every intention of reopening her business after the source of the carbon monoxide leak is found and repaired.

"I will do my best to do it as quickly as possible," Gautreaux said.