The annual 2014 Midwest Furfest had an unfortunate interruption this year as the animal aficionados joined several thousand other guests staying at Rosemont’s Hyatt hotel (right outside Chicago) in evacuating the building because of a chlorine gas leak.
The leak occurred at about 12:40 A.M. on Sunday, December 7, at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare hotel on West Bryn Mawr Avenue. The Rosemont Fire Department and other first responders were contacted when guests and hotel staff started noticing a noxious smell spreading across the ninth floor of the hotel.
Upon investigation, law enforcement officials found that toxic amounts of chlorine gas had been leaked into the hallway — and they believe it was intentional.
Technicians in HazMat suits were deployed to find the source of the gas leak, which ended up being chlorine in powder form, sitting in the ninth floor stairwell. The Chicago Tribune notes that the technicians were able to clean the hotel thoroughly, and after about three hours, the building was deemed safe enough for re-entry.
What remains to be seen, however, is whether this intentional gas leak was an attack on the Furfest itself. The festival, which celebrates “art, literature, and performance based around anthropomorphic animals,” according to organization chairman Toby Murono, still managed to raise about $31,000 for an animal sanctuary at this year’s event, and about 1,100 people in animal suits were able to lighten the mood for the 4,600 people affected by the evacuation.
The Tribune reports that 19 people were transported to nearby hospitals after experiencing severe nausea and dizziness — two surefire signs of chlorine poisoning, which is one of the lesser-known medical conditions that warrants immediate care at a hospital emergency room facility, as well as the subsequent average $1,500 hospital bill. Luckily, no fatal injuries have been reported thus far, and participants in the Midwest Furfest have managed to keep a positive outlook on the situation.
“The furry community has been exceptionally supportive of our convention in the wake of this criminal act,” Murono states, “and our resilient staff and remarkably understanding and sympathetic attendees helped us finish the weekend on many positive notes.”
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