Poisonous chemicals killed one woman in an apparent suicide and sickened eight people, prompting the evacuation of three floors of the Hotel Fairmont in San Jose, fire officials told CBS San Francisco. Firefighters were dispatched at around 10 a.m. Saturday to the hotel on a report of an attempted suicide on the 19th floor using chemicals.
The crew found the woman dead in a hotel room in the 19th floor. San Jose police are investigating the incident as a suicide. San Jose fire department Capt. Mitch Matlow said the eight people sickened were believed to be hotel employees. Their injuries are not thought to be life-threatening, he said. Several other people had minor symptoms but "have gotten better with fresh air."
Matlow said at a news conference more than 100 people were evacuated from the hotel. Exposure to the unknown chemical was believed to be "very brief."
"Some of them were initially complaining of feeling faint, light headed, short of breath," Matlow said.
The chemicals have not been identified and doing so is "a long, slow process," the fire captain added.
Hazardous materials teams from San Jose and Santa Clara County set up a decontamination area where hotel workers exposed to the gas were sprayed with water from a fire hose to rinse off any remaining chemicals. They were then loaded into waiting ambulances and rushed to the hospital. None appeared to have life-threatening injuries.
At the same time, other hazmat teams worked to identify the toxic gas.
Fire crews worked under the assumption it could be sulfur compound because guests reported a scent similar to rotten eggs.
"We do know there are liquids on the floor in the room and on the counter in the room. We don't know if those are mouthwash or if those are the hazardous chemicals. Every single puddle that's in the room is going to have to be tested," said Matlow.
Guests staying on the 19th floor told CBS San Francisco they had no idea what was going on until they heard an alarm and evacuation announcement.
"They did say that it wasn't a fire, but they didn't say anything else," said Caroline Fuentes. Fuentes said she smelled a strong chemical odor as she was leaving.
The hazardous materials teams left the hotel around 4:30 p.m., having handed chemical tests over to the San Jose Police Department as part of the ongoing investigation into the death of the woman found inside the room.