9 people hospitalized after refrigerant leak at Rowley Market Basket

ROWLEY, MASS. (WHDH) – Nine people were taken to the hospital after refrigerant leaked out of a freezer at a Market Basket in Rowley on Thursday afternoon, fire officials said.

Hazmat and emergency crews responding to a report of a gas leak at the supermarket at 231 Newburyport Turnpike around 3 p.m. ordered everyone out of the store, according to the Rowley Police Department.

Sky 7 HD showed several ambulances in the parking lot and multiple people being treated at a makeshift triage area.

“I stopped breathing. I couldn’t take a breath. Just coughing and literally, I just saw one of the employees I knew and I just kind of grabbed him and he’s like ‘Get out of the store,” Shopper Sharon Anderson said. “Next thing I knew I was on the ground outside trying to catch my breath.”

Police say more than 20 people were evaluated at the scene for respiratory issues.

Nine people were transported to an area hospital “as a precaution,” according to the Rowley Fire Department.

Everyone has been released and told that the burning sensation they feel will soon go away.

The frantic moment was caused by a malfunctioning ice machine, according to fire officials.

“I was literally sucking nothing in,” Anderson said. “There was no air exchange. I was just making sounds.”

One customer who was inside at the time said she had to be treated in the parking lot outside.

“I think everybody was slowly realizing that there was some sort of chemical because everybody started to cough. Then initially you just coughed a little bit and then once you realized that it started to hurt and burn, people were realizing, ‘Oh OK, it is not just me. It’s everybody,” she said. “So people were saying, ‘Get out of the store, get out of the store.”

In a statement, Market Basket officials said the issue has been resolved.

“We are glad to report that the issue now has been resolved and after receiving the all clear from the authorities, we will reopen Friday for normal business hours starting as usual at 7 a.m.,” it read. “We are grateful for the swift response of fire and emergency personnel, as well as the prompt actions taken by our store associates.”

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