What prompted a ‘mass casualty’ alert in NJ?
OCEANPORT — The term "mass casualty" can send a shiver down anyone's spine as it usually signifies a potential tragedy. Such was not the case in Monmouth County on Saturday night.
The release of a chemical accidentally drifted to a home on Irma Place in Oceanport where about 70 people were attending a graduation party, police chief Michael P. Kelly told New Jersey 101.5 News.
A 911 call about the party was received around 6:50 p.m., reporting numerous people's eyes were tearing up and they were coughing.
"Our guys canvassed the area, checked around and found the house behind had a whole hedge row. The homeowner used a bear repellent to disperse some deer he's been having issues with. The wind was working was working right, or wrong, it blew whatever he sprayed into the party," Kelly said.
The repellent is similar to pepper spray with many of the same ingredients, according to Kelly.
County dispatchers who handled the 911 call determined it was a "mass casualty" and activated Monmouth County's EMS Task Force, which triggers notifications of local EMS coordinators in surrounding towns to assess the situation and dispatch needed personnel and equipment, including a medical bus that can transport 16 people at a time.
Oceanport's fire department, first aid and mutual aid arrived at the scene, according to Kelly, and set up onsite triage but no one was hospitalized.
"Whatever was bothering people dissipated," Kelly said, who said at first the chemical was thought to be pepper spray.
Once the situation was assessed the alert was canceled although two ambulances did report to the scene. The party continued for several more hours.
The Asbury Park Press identified the graduate as Tom Bocco from Shore Regional High School.
Bocco, who was all star lacrosse player for Shore Regional told the Asbury Park Press he was across the street from the party when he noticed everyone came outside coughing.
Kelly said Bocco is going into the military and took the whole incident in stride.
Back in December, a spilled container of bear repellent was to blame for an incident at the Amazon distribution center in Robbinsville that sent dozens of employees to the hospital.
Most suffered from eye irritation or respiratory problems.
Following that incident, Robbinsville fire chief Dan Schaffner told New Jersey 101.5 the repellent was released from a single aerosol container on a conveyor belt that possibly fell off.
That spray contained capsaicin, a potent form of pepper spray, to ward off aggressive or charging bears, Schaffner said.
More from New Jersey 101.5