Amid one of the more lighthearted environments you could possibly hope to find inside an American hotel, a pretty scary incident went down on Sunday: Chlorine gas at the Midwest FurFest convention hospitalized 19 people, and authorities now believe it was an intentional act. The incident took place at the hosting grounds of FurFest, the Hyatt Regency O'Hare hotel in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, and the details sound pretty harrowing. According to the Chicago Tribune, the smell of chlorine began to permeate the eighth and ninth floors of the hotel, drawing a 911 call that brought emergency crews to the scene.
For the uninitiated, who may be wondering what precisely Midwest FurFest is — its the foremost "furry" convention in all of Illinois, an annual gathering spot for the fluffiest and fuzziest anthropomorphic animal-style devotees in all the greater Chicago area, and indeed, the Midwest.
It ran from Dec. 5 to Dec. 7 this year, which is to say from Friday through Sunday. For such a relatively short event, it's got to be a rude awakening to be forced from your hotel room in the middle of the night for any reason, but under these circumstances, it sounds pretty frightening. The Hyatt Regency O'Hare ended up being evacuated, and an aforementioned 19 people were sent to the hospital with symptoms of nausea and dizziness, according to NBC Chicago.
At this juncture, police believe that the chlorine gas — the culprit for the illnesses, and a heavy smell which one attendee described as "like when you walk into a pool," according to the Tribune — was set off in a deliberate act, citing the presence of chlorine powder in the hotel's ninth floor stairwell.
FurFest detailed the gassing and subsequent evacuation on their official website Sunday morning, while simultaneously giving out some potentially unwelcome news — they won't be offering any refunds, nor will the hotel, owing to the incident's status as "an unforeseen possibly criminal act."
As we wake up today we want to continue to provide the best possible convention that we can, despite the trying circumstances. The convention will be running on a full normal programming schedule today. We ask you to continue to be patient, and remember that the volunteers who make Midwest FurFest happen intend to give 110% to make sure that the fun, friendship, and good times of Midwest FurFest 2014 overshadow last night’s unfortunate incident.
It's all pretty harrowing stuff — Chlorine exposure and inhalation can cause a host of nasty side effects, so it's immensely fortunate that it was discovered however soon it was — and if it was indeed an intentional, criminal act, it's possible you could see terrorism charges brought over this. At this juncture, however, it's too early to say for certain, so this story will be worth keeping an eye on going forward.
Image: Getty Images