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Ore. FFs respond to hazmat incident, find 1 dead in suspected chemical suicide

Some Springfield residents were asked to shelter in place following a hydrogen sulfide release


A first responder looks into a a vehicle parked on Main Street in Springfield after a report of hazardous gas in the area.

Louis Krauss
The Register-Guard

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — A hazmat incident closed four blocks of Main Street in Springfield and asked residents to shelter in place for several hours Monday night, as police and firefighters respond to what officials say was hazardous gas released inside a vehicle in a suspected suicide.

Early investigation found that one victim was found dead in a vehicle, Eugene-Springfield Battalion Chief Mike Caven said.

“It sounds like we had somebody commit suicide with a hazardous gas in the vehicle,” Caven said Monday night. “They’re locking down the area, (asking people) shelter in place until they can make sure everything’s ventilated.”

The gas released was hydrogen sulfide, and the chemicals have been isolated to the one vehicle, said Battalion Chief Anthony Bucher, who responded initially.

“They’ve just been mitigating the hazard, which will probably take a couple more hours, that’s why the area is cordoned off,” Bucher said.

Also known as H2S, sewer gas, swamp gas, stink damp, and sour damp, it is a colorless gas known for its pungent “rotten egg” odor at low concentrations. It is extremely flammable and highly toxic, according to U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The vehicle, a black SUV, was parked near the intersection of Main Street and Pioneer Parkway East, and the first report came in at 4:35 p.m. according to the dispatch call log.

Upon arrival, the victim was removed from the vehicle and emergency responders tried to resuscitate them but were unsuccessful, Caven said.

[Read next: Firefighter threat: The chemical suicide responses]


Alert sent out by Eugene Springfield Fire Department on Monday, Dec. 20.

The fire department asked residents who live or work in the vicinity to shelter in place while crews responded. A public safety alert was delivered via cellphones at 5:21 p.m. Monday. The shelter in place order was lifted at 7:25 p.m. Main Street was closed from Pioneer Parkway East through to Sixth Street, and ESF Fire asked residents to avoid the area.

Dean Potter, a 41-year-old Springfield resident, said he noticed a strong gas smell when he got off the bus at Springfield Station earlier Monday.

“It was like a rotten eggs, natural gas smell,” he said.

Springfield police officers assisted the initial fire crew and were exposed to the chemicals, but were later cleared and had no symptoms, Caven said.

Editor’s note: Suicide is always preventable. If you are having thoughts of suicide or feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline immediately at 800-273-8255. Counselors are also available to chat at Remember: You deserve to be supported, and it is never too late to seek help. Speak with someone today.

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