Party leaves children ill
Parents blame Holiday Inn Express pool chemicals
By John Sullivan
Chester - Parents' concerns about high chemical levels at the Holiday Inn Express's pool in Chester turned into full-blown panic last week, as children who attended one of the hotel's promotional sleepovers developed fevers, sore throats and searing red blisters over their bodies.
At least six of 12 children developed the same symptoms to varying degrees, said parents of the children, all guests at the same sleepover and pool party held Jan. 1.
The parents suspect high levels of chlorine to be the culprit, as children coming out of the pool immediately complained of burning redness beneath their eyes, said Patty LeDoux, one of the parents.
Doctors examining the children also told parents that the symptoms were a result of reactions to chemicals, LeDoux said. LeDoux's two children, Justin, 9, and Shannon, 11, were two of the worst affected.
LeDoux rushed Justin to the emergency room Friday, after a plethora of prescription creams, gels and medicines failed to improve large infected blisters growing beneath his eyes. Right after the pool party, the boy suffered from a 103-degree fever, which along with the blisters, kept him out of school for the week, LeDoux said.
Shannon, as well as four other girls, suffered from similar fevers and skin rashes that formed on different parts of their bodies, LeDoux said. All but Justin have fully recovered.
LeDoux said hotel management was both evasive and uncooperative in helping the parents find an explanation for what might have happened.
"They said it couldn't have been the pool, because no other parties that day resulted in children coming down with the same symptoms," she said.
The hotel's owner, Jake Kriney, said yesterday that inspectors from the Orange County Health Department cleared his pool's chemical levels several days before the party attended by LeDoux's children. He said his hotel uses a bromine mix instead of chlorine.
Kriney ventured that the skin blisters on LeDoux's children might have occurred from something else the children might have come into contact with during the sleepover.
"We should rely on doctors to tell us what the reactions were from, not speculation," he said.
LeDoux said doctors should know by sometime next week what kind of chemical caused the reaction. She is asking that the hotel consider paying her children's medical bills, she said.
"They don't want to take responsibility for this, and that's not right," she said.
A hotel flier about the sleepover pool parties advertise packages starting at $119. The events, which have become popular with families in the area, advertise a deluxe room for five, a large pizza and salad, breakfast bar and use of the heated indoor pool and spa.
When asked if he might close the pool until the skin test results for LeDoux's son comes back, Kriney said, "We'll continue to operate the pool until the Orange County Department of Health tells us otherwise."