Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. John Vianney Catholic Church open after Palm Sunday mystery illness

ST. PETE BEACH — Holy Week services at St. John Vianney Catholic Church are continuing as scheduled this week, despite a two-hour emergency closing Sunday when eight parishioners became ill.

The cause of the illness, first reported as possible methane gas from clogged sewer lines, is actually unknown.

"The incident is still under investigation. So far, we have found nothing that could be the cause," St. Pete Beach Fire Marshal Ernie Hand said Tuesday.

More than 1,200 people were crowded in the church for Palm Sunday services when several people collapsed.

When the city fire department responded to a 911 call, witnesses said they had smelled gas.

With police assistance, the church was evacuated, and the Pinellas County Haz-Mat Team was called in.

Eight people were treated at the scene Sunday, and four were taken to area hospitals. All were released later that afternoon.

Hand said the atmospheric testing instruments, which can measure contaminants in parts per billion, tested for methane and other gases.

"Nothing was found whatsoever, and we opened the church back up to the public," Hand said.

Overcrowding at the church is one of several causes still under investigation by the fire department and church officials.

The church, which normally holds about 1,200 people, was filled beyond capacity, with some people standing throughout the entire service.

According to reports, people first became ill while the entire congregation stood during the 20-minute Palm Sunday Gospel.

Brian Jennings, the church's operations manager, said Tuesday there have been no further reports of people smelling gas.

"It's very unfortunate, and we are still trying to figure out what happened," Jennings said. "We are open. We held two Masses yesterday and will be holding all regularly scheduled services this week."

Sunday Easter services at 8:30, 10 and 11:30 a.m. will be held in the church and in a tent on the church grounds. The 6:45 a.m. Easter sunrise service will be held in the church.

St. John Vianney Catholic Church open after Palm Sunday mystery illness 04/19/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 4:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Kriseman invites Steph Curry to St. Pete on Twitter

    Blogs

    Mayor Rick Kriseman is no stranger to tweaking President Donald Trump on social media.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman took to Twitter Saturday evening to wade into President Donald Trump's latest social media scuffle
  2. Death toll, humanitarian crisis grow in Puerto Rico

    World

    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A humanitarian crisis grew Saturday in Puerto Rico as towns were left without fresh water, fuel, power or phone service following Hurricane Maria's devastating passage across the island.

    Crew members assess electrical lines in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on Friday in Puerto Rico. Mobile communications systems are being flown in but “it’s going to take a while.”
  3. N. Korea says strike against U.S. mainland is 'inevitable'

    World

    North Korea's foreign minister warned Saturday that a strike against the U.S. mainland is "inevitable" because President Donald Trump mocked leader Kim Jong Un with the belittling nickname "little rocketman."

  4. All-eyes photo gallery: Florida State Seminoles loss to the N.C. State Wolfpack

    News

    View a gallery of images from the Florida State Seminoles 27-21 loss to the N.C. State Wolfpack Saturday in Tallahassee. The Seminoles will face Wake Forest on Saturday, Sept. 30 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

    Florida State Seminoles fans sing the fight song during the Florida State Seminoles game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on September 23, 2017, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.  At the half, North Carolina State Wolfpack 17, Florida State Seminoles 10.
  5. Helicopter, small aircraft collide at Clearwater Air Park

    News

    CLEARWATER — Two people suffered minor injuries after a helicopter and a small aircraft collided late Saturday afternoon at Clearwater Air Park, 1000 N Hercules Ave.

    Clearwater Fire Department emergency personal douse a plane with fire retardant after the plane crashed into a helicopter at Clearwater Air Park 1000 N Hercules Ave. Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. According to Clearwater Fire two people sustained minor injuries. [Photo by Clearwater Fire Department]