Four workers at Los Angeles International Airport were sickened Monday — one critically — by carbon dioxide that was released from a fire-suppression system in an electrical utility room about 200 feet from Terminal 8, prompting an evacuation of the terminal and impacting some inbound flights.
Firefighters responded to the area about 7 a.m., according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.
As a precaution, Terminal 8 was evacuated, and passengers were sent to Terminal 7 for screening. Also, some United Airlines flights bound for Los Angeles were being held at their origin airports while the investigation was conducted, resulting in some flight delays.
About 10 a.m, the ground stop for LAX-bound United Airlines flights was lifted, airport officials said.
LAFD officials said the carbon dioxide was released as part of a fire-suppression system that was activated in the electrical room in which four independent contractors were working.
Three of those workers managed to escape the room, but a 36 year-old man was overcome and has been hospitalized in critical condition, said Brian Humphrey of the LAFD.
“The four persons who took suddenly ill — three adult males and one adult female — were all workers in or near that unknown-size utility room, when a popping sound was heard, and the apparent release of carbon dioxide vapor took place,” Humphrey said.
Three of the four workers were treated at scene for minor complaints, Humphrey said.
“The fourth worker … was found pulse-less and non-breathing inside the utility room,” Humphrey said. “He was provided prompt CPR and advanced life support by LAFD paramedics, with continuing advanced medical care during transport to an area hospital.”
Officials credited Los Angeles Police Department officers and Los Angeles Airport Police officers for quickly responding and administering CPR to the overcome worker until paramedics arrived to assist the man, who was initially in cardiac arrest and whose condition was described as “grave.”
“Though LAFD has no update on his status, he has certainly been given a fighting chance of survival thanks to the prompt and well-coordinated teamwork of LAPD, LAX PD and LAFD first responders,” Humphrey said.
No other injuries were reported.
The incident is being investigated by Cal-OSHA.
According to Humphrey, LAFD hazardous-materials experts “closely examined the area with sophisticated instruments, and discovered only trace residue of carbon dioxide remaining within the utility room.” Fire crews worked to ventilate the area and ensure that the terminal was safe to re-occupy.
“No escalating or off-site hazard was identified,” Humphrey said. “LAFD responders are utilizing portable fans to further ventilate the immediate area to outside air.”
According to airport officials, LAX-bound United flights that were already in the air were allowed to land as scheduled, but all others were held on the ground until after 10 a.m.
Airline passengers were urged to follow the @FlyLAXairport Twitter account https://twitter.com/flyLAXairport for updates, and to check with their airline for any updates on flights.