Sheriff cautions about carbon monoxide after weekend scare at Sevier County church

Jan 2, 2024, 10:44 PM | Updated: Jan 3, 2024, 7:51 am

MONROE, Sevier County — First responders were urging everyone Tuesday to maintain their furnaces and detectors following a carbon monoxide scare at a church that sickened more than 50 people.

“Some of those symptoms may just be, ‘Hey, I’ve got a cold,’” warned Sevier County Sheriff Nathan Curtis. “It comes on quick and if you’re not paying attention to it and don’t get care, you may not wake up.”

Those words followed a situation that unfolded over several hours Sunday in the town of Monroe.

According to a statement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 54 people reported symptoms and 49 received treatment after first responders detected “higher” levels of carbon monoxide in the Monroe East meetinghouse.

“The Church is taking this matter seriously and is investigating the cause of the malfunction with the heating system,” the statement read. “The meetinghouse will remain closed until we can ensure the safety of the building. The Church is working to support medical and other expenses for those affected. We are concerned and are praying for their recovery.”

Curtis acknowledged the problem wasn’t immediately identified as carbon monoxide. Officials said the first call came in about a 4-year-old girl who was having breathing problems but had been sick earlier in the week.

A church in Monroe Utah exposed people inside to carbon monoxide sickening more than 50 and sending many of those to area hospitals. (Andrew Adams, KSL TV)

An hour later, crews responded to the church again about a man who was sick but believed he was having issues related to low blood sugar.

“The ambulance showed up again and I’m like, ‘OK, that’s even getting weirder,’” said Clint Wirick, who then learned his daughter and wife were also potentially exhibiting symptoms.

“(My 4-year-old daughter) just kind of grabbed her head and said, ‘I have a headache, dad,’” Wirick said. “My wife was like, ‘Yeah, I’ve got a migraine — let’s go home.’”

When Wirick got home, he called dispatch about the issues, saying he suspected a carbon monoxide problem. Once firefighters detected the elevated levels of carbon monoxide, crews evacuated the building.

The Sevier County Sheriff’s Office said later in the evening a number of people showed up at Sevier Valley Hospital for treatment. Officials said 22 individuals required transport to out-of-area hospitals for hyperbaric treatments, taxing the county’s ambulance resources.

“We’d never had anything that big that happened before with that many people coming into the emergency room, needing medical care all at once, so it was a huge tax on our local services,” Curtis said. “It’s New Year’s Eve, 8 or 10 at night, and we’re trying to get enough people to do that and cover it.”

Curtis said he was grateful for the assistance of first-responders from Piute County EMS and Gunnison Valley Hospital ambulance to help meet the demand.

He urged people to maintain their furnaces properly and to ensure that carbon monoxide detectors were working, noting a problem could surface anywhere.

“This is the first time I’ve ever heard of it at a church,” Curtis acknowledged.

Wirick said he was grateful his call helped to alert authorities about the issue.

“I just felt like I was using common sense,” Wirick said. “A lot of people could have been sick and not known what it was and maybe had much worse complications to that poisoning.”

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Sheriff cautions about carbon monoxide after weekend scare at Sevier County church