AUSTIN (KXAN) — One person is dead and six people are at the hospital after they were exposed to what appears to be hydrogen sulfide at a West Campus apartment complex Wednesday afternoon.
The Austin Fire Department says when they responded to the 21 Pearl around 2:30 p.m., they found a sign on an apartment door that read: “Danger: Watch out, hydrogen sulfide,” along with a person who was already in cardiac arrest. The apartment, which is geared towards college students, is at the corner of West 21st Street and Pearl Street.
First responders switched over to a hazmat environment immediately donned protective gear. The crews then took the initial patient out and did a quick decontamination effort on him as well as making sure others in the building were quickly evacuated.
“Crews quickly started ventilation and going door-to-door to make sure everyone was okay,” says AFD Division Chief Palmer Buck. Buck says initial readings indicate the chemical in the apartment was hydrogen sulfide.
The Austin-Travis County EMS says the person who died is a man in his 20s. In a statement from the apartment’s management, the person who died is a student. A woman, who is the property manager, was taken to the hospital along with five other patients. Five other patients were treated at the scene.
While the situation is still being investigated, people who consider chemical suicide sometimes use hydrogen sulfide. “This is not an uncommon method of chemical suicide,” says Buck. “You can search on the internet to see some of the different ways this is done.”
Students who live at 21 Pearl tell KXAN they smelled sulfur as they were evacuating. The students also say the initial evacuation was for the 4th floor but then authorities evacuated the entire building. First responders say students who live at 21 Pearl will be allowed back in once they clear the entire building, which houses approximately 400 people.
“The safety and well being of our residents and staff is our first priority, and we will be cooperating with the authorities to resolve this situation as quickly as possible,” said 21 Pearl’s management in a statement.