‘Rotten eggs’ mystery

Police and ambulance staff at South End School in Carterton. Students have fallen sick after an...
Police and ambulance staff at South End School in Carterton. Students fell sick after an unknown substance was dropped from a plane. Photo: NZME
Authorities are hunting for the source of the supposed chemical incident that affected dozens of people in the Wairarapa town of Carterton yesterday and put 10 children in hospital.

Residents reported a strong  sulphur-like smell and a school was locked down  while the children were assessed and  decontaminated. Carterton’s South End School posted on social media there was a very strong smell of "ammonia rotten eggs" in the playground about  1pm.

"...  a plane flew in a southward direction and one student had seen ‘stuff’ coming out of the plane — so we assume it was a fertiliser of some sort".

However, Fire and Emergency (Fenz) later discounted the plane theory.

Several pupils  felt queasy and they were made to wash their faces and drink plenty of water.

The range of symptoms included nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and a temperature.

At least five ambulances and eight fire engines went to the school.

Wellington Free Ambulance said 40 children with  "very minor" symptoms were treated at the school by paramedics.

Ten others with moderate symptoms were taken to Wairarapa Hospital in Masterton.

Fenz said about 100 children at the school were triaged and put through a decontamination process. Parents were asked to bring a change of clothes for their children.

By 7pm, the last of the 10  taken to hospital had been discharged, a hospital spokeswoman said.

She expected the regional public health service would be involved in trying to find  the source of the problem.

Police said inquiries  to find the source were continuing. They were door-knocking in the area and investigating the school grounds.

A Fire and Emergency spokesman, commenting on reports of a substance coming from a plane, said, "...  that’s been unsubstantiated at this stage and we don’t believe it’s come from a plane — we just don’t know where it’s come from. That’s a mystery to us."

- Martin Johnston

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