41 treated after pepper-spray release in restaurant

Posted: September 05, 2004

A mysterious release of pepper spray at a Wendy's restaurant in Northeast Philadelphia sent 41 people to hospitals yesterday.

City police and the Fire Marshal's Office were trying to determine whether the incident was accidental or intentional, Capt. Mike Carroll, a fire department spokesman, said last night.

No one was seriously injured, Police Lt. Mark Bugieda said.

Carroll said emergency medical technicians responded to a report of fumes at Wendy's at 2:18 p.m., and a woman at the restaurant complained of nausea.

Crews were preparing to transport her when other customers and employees began showing signs of nausea and respiratory problems. Some were taken to hospitals as a precaution, police said.

Police said hazardous-materials teams tested the interior and found signs of pepper spray, which is not lethal but can cause temporary blindness.

Six fire department medical units were among the 26 fire vehicles that arrived at the restaurant, outside the Roosevelt Mall on Cottman Avenue. Traffic was clogged along Cottman Avenue for much of the afternoon.

The Wendy's remained closed last night, pending inspection and cleaning by the Philadelphia Health Department.

Contact staff writer Jeff Shields at 610-313-8173 or jshields@phillynews.com.

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