Gas odor prompts evacuation of dozens from daycare

by: Stephanie Coueignoux Updated:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Dozens of children have been allowed back into a University City daycare after the smell of gas forced them out Wednesday morning.

Firefighters evacuated the children at Afterschool Construction Zone daycare on David Cox Road around 8:30 a.m.

When firefighters first went inside the daycare, they couldn't find anything wrong. Eventually they tracked the smell to a Mexican restaurant next door.

They realized the smell was actually coming through the vents.

Because the restaurant was still locked, firefighters had to force the front door open to get inside. Once they did, the battalion chief said they found a pot of food cooking on the stove. He told Channel 9 that the stove had been on since last night, which is what was causing the gas odor.

The fire inspector was called to the scene and said because of safety concerns, he could issue the restaurant -- Fiesta Maya -- a citation.

Channel 9 also spoke with the daycare director who called the fire department. She said she knew something was wrong and she immediately evacuated the children and emailed their parents to let them know what was going on.

“There were too many children -- my son included -- and I just wouldn't be able to explain anything if I didn't just take this necessary precaution to make sure that each child was safe," said Melanie Thomas.

Kelly McArthur, whose child attends the daycare, showed Channel 9 the email the daycare sent out as soon as the children were escorted outside, which is standard protocol.

McArthur said, "Anytime there's any type of emergency, they call, email, text so I feel very comfortable that she's in good hands."

Natasha Riddick, who owns the daycare, said, “People do make mistakes but I do believe that they need to be cited for it. It was very careless and something tragic could have happened."

Even though fire officials gave the “all clear” around 10:30 a.m., the smell of gas isn’t completely gone. Firefighters said it could take several hours before it completely dissipates.

The manager of the restaurant told Channel 9 he is working with the fire inspector, but didn't have anything else to say.

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