Eight TUS students and staff hospitalised after possible exposure to ‘chemical agent’

Staff and students were evacuated from the building as emergency responders attended the scene. Photo: Liam Burke.

EIGHT people who may have been exposed to a “chemical agent” today (Wednesday) at the Technological University of the Shannon (TUS) campus in Moylish were kept under observation and separated from other patients at University Hospital Limerick (UHL).

A total of nine people, including TUS students and staff, are understood to have suffered irritations to their eyes and a burning sensation in their throat area in an incident that led to the evacuation of part of the TUS campus around 11am today.

Seven patients were taken by ambulance from the university campus to University Hospital Limerick (UHL), an eighth person self-presented at the hospital, and a ninth person was assessed by paramedics at the scene.

A fleet of HSE ambulances and emergency responders attached to Limerick City and County Fire and Rescue Service attended the scene, and investigations into the cause of the incident are currently ongoing.

“As the patients in question may have been exposed to an as-yet unknown chemical agent, they were cohorted and kept under observation in a designated area separate from but adjacent to the ED proper,” said a spokesman for the UL Hospitals Group, the body governing UHL.

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“A total of eight patients presented to the Emergency Department at UHL following an incident at the Technological University of the Shannon (TUS) campus at Moylish, Limerick,” the spokesman said.

“Seven patients were conveyed to the Emergency Department by ambulance and another self-presented. Patients were re-triaged on arrival and have been reassessed.

“A ninth patient was assessed at the scene by the Alternative Pre-Hospital Pathway (APP) service, a collaboration between the National Ambulance Service and UL Hospitals Group.”

Hospital sources said the hospital’s major emergency plan swung into action to provide emergency response to the casualties brought in from the scene.

“Staff at the Emergency Department regularly take part in training exercises and drills in the event of such an incident,” UL Hospitals Group said.

“All the patients are stable and all but one have been discharged from hospital as of 3.30pm.”

A TUS spokeswoman said its Moylish campus’ main building was “evacuated” at approximately 11am “as members of Limerick Fire Service investigated complaints of a possible irritant in the air in one part of the building”.

“No source was found for the irritant and following the inspection” and the fire service advised that the main building could re-open from 2.30pm.

A source familiar with the incident said people at the campus had complained of a strange odour before experiencing a burning sensation in their throats.

“They could not see it but they could smell it, it could have been a far more serious and everyone who was taken to hospital is being looked after,” the source said.

The TUS spokeswoman said that “seven people (including TUS staff and students) were taken to the University Hospital Limerick by ambulance as a precaution” and that the university was investigating the cause of the incident.