One student died in a hazmat situation at a West Campus apartment building in Austin.
The student was discovered dead when the Austin Fire Department responded to 21 Pearl at around 2:30 p.m. Upon their arrival, they found the sign that reads, “Danger: Watch out, hydrogen sulfide,” on the door. The student, who was in his 20’s, died at the scene, while 11 others required medical attention.
“Crews quickly started ventilation and going door-to-door to make sure everyone was okay,” AFD Division Chief Palmer Buck said, as reported by KXAN.
Six people requiring additional medical attention were transported to the hospital. These included two men and two women in their 20s, and one man and one woman in their 40s. Five others refused to be transported.
During evacuation, students at 21 Pearl said they could smell the burning of sulfur. Although only the students on the fourth floor were being evacuated, authorities asked the students of the entire building to leave. Almost 400 students who live there will be allowed to return once they clear the entire building, first responders said.
The chemical hydrogen sulfide, at times used by people considering chemical suicide, is also called “sewer gas.” Austin Fire Department said that the gas, if taken in high concentrations, can be fatal, according to KVUE.
“Hydrogen sulfide, a lot of people call it sewer gas, often has been used in chemical suicides,” Buck said. “Whether that is what happened here or not, that is under investigation, but the warning signs that certainly clue us in to that and we worked under the assumption that we did have some type of toxic gas.”
Buck further added, “This is not an uncommon method of chemical suicide. You can search on the internet to see some of the different ways this is done.”
In a statement, 21 Pearl’s management said, “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.”