Katy ISD has reported that ten students from Mayde Creek Junior High School were taken to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation symptoms after a student’s cell phone’s battery overheated and began smoking Friday morning. First responders reported no serious injuries and no actual fire or explosion at the school, as has been reported by other media outlets.
“It was all just smoke is my understanding,” said Lieutenant Jo Driver, public information officer for Westlake Volunteer Fire Department.
Rachel Moreno, communications director for the Harris County Fire Marshall’s Office, said the fire marshal had determined that a smoking battery had caused the incident at the school which is located at 2700 Greenhouse Road in Houston. A group of students had a cell phone they had been taking apart throughout the day and one of the children began twisting and flexing the battery, she said.
“Then all of a sudden it started to get hot and bulge and that’s when it started to smoke and maybe spark a little bit,” Moreno said.
The young man went to see the school nurse who wiped the soot off his hands and saw that there was no burn injury, Moreno added.
Driver said the students were taken to Texas Children’s Hospital’s Katy Campus and Houston Methodist West in Katy for treatment. Smoke inhalation generally only requires oxygen for minor cases such as what the students are reported to have had, Driver said.
"Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus in Katy received seven patients as a result of the incident at a local school. All were treated and discharged," said Jenn Jacome, director of public relations for Texas Children's Hospital.
Symptoms of smoke inhalation include coughing, shortness of breath, hoarseness or noisy breathing, eye irritation and headache, among others, according to WebMD.
Moreno said that, given the facts of the case, she would not expect any of the children to have any serious injuries and that transportation to the hospital was conducted as a precaution.
A photo of a scorch mark slightly smaller a handprint on a lunchroom table which has not yet been publicly released showed the only damage caused by the fire to school property.
“The only thing it was, was on one of the cafeteria tables [had] a little spot where the cell phone basically [sat and smoked] – a little black mark,” DiPetta said.
Westlake VFD was able to respond to the fire with a 4-minute response time, Driver said. The school is only 1.3 miles from the Mayde Creek campus, which aided in the fast response.
The school day had already been scheduled for early dismissal, DiPetta said. However, rumors on social media gave some parents the impression that the campus had been evacuated, she added.
“The incident happened at 11:30 this morning and then there was early dismissal today at 12:55,” DiPetta said. “That was a detail that a lot of media outlets weren’t given at the very beginning which was extremely important because we had kids [already scheduled to be] leaving at 12:55, and a lot of parents or people that were driving around out here actually thought they were evacuating because of this particular situation.”
Mayde Creek Junior High has cancelled a Valentine’s Day dance that was originally scheduled for Friday evening. Students that paid for dance tickets will either get to attend a rescheduled dance, if that avenue is pursued, or will have their tickets refunded, DiPetta said.
The phone that caused the situation was being held as evidence for the Fire Marshall’s Office’s investigation, DiPetta said. The school does not have a record of what brand or model of phone caused the incident which sent the students to the hospital.
Students were not identified by the district or Texas Children’s Hospital to protect their privacy.
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