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Pepper spray suspected in Dumont church incident that sickened dozens

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

CVP EXCLUSIVE: Authorities suspect pepper spray was released during a party last night at a gym attached to a Dumont church, drawing a mass casualty response by a host of local and county emergency agencies, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.

  • YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Dumont Police Chief Joseph L. Faulborn told CLIFFVIEW PILOT this afternoon that an 11-year-old boy who didn’t realize the possible consequences of what he was doing was responsible for releasing pepper spray during a Saturday evening dinner at a Dumont church that sent two people to the hospital and sickened dozens of others. READ MORE….

Two victims were taken to Englewood Hospital after 50 people — including a responding police officer — found themselves having either trouble breathing, chest pains or sore throats, authorities said this afternoon.

The 10 p.m. incident at a hall next to the Living Word Community Church on East Madison Avenue last night drew a huge response, including mass casualty buses and vehicles that hold beds and equipment.

Authorities began suspecting pepper spray after readings by hazardous materials units from New Milford, Paramus and Bergen County turned up no airborne hazards.

It was during those tests that a police officer began coughing.

“He said it felt the same as if he’d inhaled pepper spray,” Dumont Fire Chief Matthew Banta told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

Meanwhile, he said, three dozen of so other attendees outside began exhibiting similar symptoms.

No suspects had been identified this afternoon.

All told, nearly four dozen people were treated at a makeshift triage area that included mass casualty units from Englewood Hospital and The Valley Hospital, which sent its Ambulance Bus 4.

Paramedic units from both hospitals joined ambulance crews from Bergenfield, Cresskill, Englewood, Haworth, River Edge, Teaneck and Tenafly.

The New Milford Volunteer Ambulance Corps sent two rigs.

“It was a little more than a half-dozen people at first,” Banta told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “Dumont police were there right away and got everyone outside quickly.

“Except for those affected, it served in the long run as a drill that showed how well emergency responders work.

“You don’t know all the resources we have in the county until there’s an emergency,” the chief said, citing the local agencies, hospitals and, particularly the Bergen County Office of Emergency Management.

“Everything was in motion in a matter of minutes,” he said. “Whatever we needed, we had.”

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