Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Respiratory ailments at Oldsmar skating rink traced to poor ventilation

OLDSMAR — The lights on the rink usually look white to him, but an ice hockey coach at the Tampa Bay Skating Academy noticed they looked yellow at practice Thursday.

Related News/Archive

So Jim Anna, head coach of a team composed of East Lake High School students, asked the driver of the Zamboni machine resurfacing the ice if the lights were new.

The driver shook his head, but the coach wasn't sure what that meant.

Before long, two players said they felt sick and the assistant coach started coughing and was having trouble getting his breath. As practice ended, the team manager asked Anna what was wrong with him.

"Either I'm having a heart attack or I broke a rib," he told her. "Because I can't breathe."

By the next night, 21 of the 24 players and the three adults on staff had suffered symptoms like shortness of breath, coughing, dizziness and nausea. Five had nosebleeds and two were coughing up blood. At least four went to the doctor and two to the hospital.

The Tampa Bay Skating Academy released a statement Tuesday, saying a gasoline-powered ice edger was used Thursday morning, possibly without adequate ventilation, and that might have caused the incident. So the rink has put new procedures in place to avoid a recurrence.

"We will continue to make every effort to make sure our users are safe and enjoy our facility," the statement said.

Also Tuesday, the Pinellas County Hazardous Materials Team checked the skating academy at 255 Forest Lakes Blvd. N for flammable gases in the air. Craig Maciuba, the deputy commander in charge, said the Zamboni machine there uses propane and the hazardous materials team didn't find any leaks.

"Of course, it's five days later," he said.

He said he went to the rink for other calls in the past when the rink opened, maybe 12 years ago or more. The Zamboni machine at that time was not burning the gas completely, he said, so it emitted a higher concentration of carbon dioxide than it should.

The East Lake team's head coach thinks the Zamboni was releasing a gas called nitrogen dioxide and that caused the symptoms. He based that on Internet research.

Maciuba confirmed that nitrogen dioxide is another gas that can be released from the ice machines and might cause respiratory symptoms.

Andrew Habasevich, 16, a junior at East Lake High School from Oldsmar, said he went home from practice Thursday and watched the University of Florida football championship. After the game, he started having trouble breathing.

"I couldn't take a deep breath or exhale all the way," he said, then he was nauseated and coughing.

He has asthma, but he said this cough was different.

The next day, he still had some trouble breathing but he wanted to play in the game Friday night. One goalie had been injured and the other was now coughing up blood. He was the only one left.

"As the game went on, I started to feel dizzy," he said. "There was one point where I had double vision."

After the game, his concern lay elsewhere.

"We lost the game," he said. "The first game we had lost in nearly three years."

Theresa Blackwell can be reached at or (727) 445-4170.

Respiratory ailments at Oldsmar skating rink traced to poor ventilation 01/13/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 8:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In a word, Hernando school leaders say, first day was 'smooth'


    Over and over on Monday, school district leaders used the same word to describe the unfolding of the first day of school in Hernando County.


    Third-graders Teagan Ferguson, left, and Brianna DeLaine deliver attendance figures to the office at J.D. Floyd Elementary School on Monday. Superintendent Lori Romano and other district administrators toured a handful of schools and classrooms throughout the day,
  2. Rays morning after: 5 mistakes that led to loss to Blue Jays


    We've already documented elsewhere what the Rays didn't do, how they failed to take advantage of a prime opportunity to win Wednesday's game, getting just one run after loading the bases in the seventh with one out and three of …

  3. Unborn baby dies, two critically injured in Largo crash


    LARGO — Two people were critically injured and an unborn baby was killed in a crash that shut down an intersection on Ulmerton Road late Wednesday night, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

  4. Forecast: Tampa Bay's workweek wraps up with more afternoon rain, hot temperatures


    After a few sporadic afternoon showers over the last few days, Tampa Bay will wrap up the workweek with some higher storm activity.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  5. Florida education news: Creaky air conditioning, hate speech, home visits and more


    OVERHEATED: Several Hillsborough County schools suffer air conditioning breakdowns during the first days of classes, and maintenance workers are striving to …

    Aging air conditioning is faltering at some Hillsborough County schools.