19 children hospitalized after 29 fall ill at Lauderhill preschool

LAUDERHILL, FLA. (WSVN) - Nineteen preschool students were taken to the hospital after, officials said, nearly 30 of them fell ill at a child care facility, Monday afternoon.

Lauderhill Fire Rescue units responded to Ave Marie Friends Preparatory School at 5801 N.W. 19 St., at around 2 p.m. Monday.

“[Crews] found multiple children in various degrees of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea,” said Lauderhill Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Jeff Levy. “They immediately called for additional resources.”

7News cameras captured D.J., one of the students, as his worried aunt picked him up and kissed him. “It was just a relief,” said the toddler’s mother. “I’m gonna start crying.”

He’s OK, but 29 of his fellow preschool students were not so fortunate.

“We triaged the patients. Once the patients were triaged, we determined the most immediate transports that needed to go to the hospital and immediately got them out of the scene,” said Levy.

Witness Serena Gordon said some of the children were non-responsive. “The children are coming out two by two. I’m taking them out to the ambulance,” she said. “Some of them were passed out. Others were droopy. Some of them were alert as well.”

Skyforce HD was overhead as paramedics wheeled children out on stretchers. Nineteen children were transported to various area hospitals, including Plantation General Hospital. Others were brought to local emergency rooms by their parents.

One parent told 7News she never received a call from the school, but went to investigate on her own when she saw paramedics outside the building. “It’s scary to see ambulances in front of your school and not know what’s going on with your child,” she said.

Levy said it was imperative for the sick preschoolers to be treated as quickly as possible. “We’re dealing with preschool-age kids, and anybody who’s a parent, who has young children, knows that when you have nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, kids experience dehydration quite fast,” he said.

Some of the young patients are listed in serious condition.

Emergency crews tested the air at the preschool and checked the building.

Officials said the children’s catered lunch is the likely cause. “The only common denominator we can find right now is that the children all had the same catered lunch from an outside catering company,” said Levy.

“There was food poisoning, and I think it’s something that the kids ate,” said D.J.’s mother, who added her son ingested the same catered food as his classmates but did not get sick.

At Plantation General Hospital, parents told 7News their children were nauseous. “She’s been throwing up ever since she got to my house,” said mother Ruth Tibby.

One mother said her 3-year-old daughter is so sick she isn’t even speaking. “She is throwing up constantly, and she’s like shaking, and she’s like in and out,” said the mother.

Mary Antoine said she got a call from the preschool’s director, Monday afternoon. “The boss, the director was telling me, ‘Oh, [your] daughter is throwing up,’ but when I went there, all the kids are throwing up,” she said. “Not one child is throwing up, every kid is throwing up.”

Parents said there are at least eight sick children at Plantation General. They said teachers at Ave Marie told them the lunch that came on a food truck on Monday may have made the students sick. “[My child was] throwing up this nasty yellow thing,” said one mother. “At first it was crumbs of food, but now it’s this yellow, nasty thing.”

Daycare workers in masks declined to comment when asked who catered the food.

Some of the children remained at Plantation General alone for hours because officials were unable to reach their parents.

Other parents remained at the hospital, hoping their 2 and 3-year-olds will start to feel better as they wait for answers. “Whether it was food poisoning, we want to be aware of those things. Every parent should understand that,” said one mother.

The Department of Health will be testing the children’s lunch and has been interviewing the staff at the preschool. 7News has learned the students ate turkey sandwiches.

The Florida Department of Children and Families will also be investigating.

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