SAN JOSE (CBS/BCN/AP) -- 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 Saturday, fire officials said.
About 10 a.m., firefighters were dispatched 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, according to Officer Gina Tepoorten.
"1792 South Market Street at Fairmont Hotel. Chemical suicide. [Inaudible] found a note on the room that said the subject committed suicide by poisonous gas," was the dispatcher's call that went out to San Jose firefighters.
"Sounds like a chemical exposure. We are deconing some of our personel and we have sealed the room off," a firefighter told dispatchers over the radio a short time later.
Already, some hotel staff members and guests were feeling sick.
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 intially complaining of feeling faint, light headed, short of breath," said Captain Matlow.
The chemicals have not been identified and doing so is "a long, slow process," the fire captain said.
Hazardous materials teams from San Jose and Santa Clara County set up a decontamination area where those 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 rotten egg type smell.
"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 Capt. Matlow.
Guests staying on the 19th floor told KPIX 5 they had no idea what was going on until they heard an alarm and someone told them through a speaker in the room they needed to evacuate.
"They did say that it wasn't a fire, but they didn't say anything else," said Caroline Fuentes. She is from Australia and was staying at the Fairmont.
Caroline says when she started walking down the hallway to evacuate, she smelled a strong chemical odor.
"It wasn't exactly the gas smell, so I couldn't really tell you. I've never smelled that before. It kind of smelled like gas, but not too sure," said Fuentes.
The hazardous materials teams left tthe hotel around 4:30 p.m. after decontaminating the room. They turned the results of the 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.
All of the floors have been re-opened to guests except the 19th floor. Police are still there investigating, and even though the air is now safe to breathe, there is still a strong chemical smell.
Hotel crews are working to remove the odor before guests are allowed back to their rooms.
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