Pepper spray was likely culprit in SeaTac sicknesses

Herald news services

SEATAC — It appears pepper spray was to blame for sickening 16 workers and passengers Monday at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Sixteen people suddenly fell ill at the Northwest Airlines ticket counter about 10 a.m., airport spokesman Bob Parker said. Five were taken to a hospital for observation.

All other possible sources for the illness have been ruled out, Parker said. After airport officials decided pepper spray was the problem, workers scrubbed the floors, he said. The ticket area was reopened about an hour later.

Airport officials don’t know where the pepper spray came from.

  • Woman shot in drive-by attack: A single mother who rarely went out has been shot to death in a drive-by shooting, and a man described by others in the car as the likely target was wounded. Rocio Contreras, 23, was driving some friends from a club where they had gone dancing to a house party when a car pulled alongside early Sunday morning. "She was talking about how happy she was, because she doesn’t get to go out that much, when all of a sudden bullets started ringing through the car," said cousin Katrina Gray, who was in the car. Contreras’ car rolled off the road and caught fire. Gray dragged Contreras out and gave her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. A 37-year-old man in the front passenger seat, someone Gray said she and others in the family knew only through friends, was listed in serious condition with wounds in the chest and head at Harborview Medical Center. The shooting occurred at an intersection on Highway 515. King County sheriff’s deputies reported no arrests as of Monday night.

  • Park to close for toxic cleanup: Gasworks Park will close Nov. 1 for a $3 million seven-month cleanup of toxic materials. The park, a popular gathering spot on the north end of Lake Union, features the rusted frame of a coal and oil refinery that operated there for 50 years. People who go the park are advised to wash their hands and not allow children or pets to dig in the dirt.

  • Flowers planted in memory of shooting victims: Dozens of people came to a city park and planted nearly 2,000 daffodil bulbs in memory of those who died from gun-related violence on Sunday. The eighth annual "Day of Remembrance" sponsored by CeaseFire Foundation of Washington drew 80 to 100 people to Green Lake. "This is a larger group than last year because of all the gun violence in Seattle recently," program director Sally Block said. The Day of Remembrance began in honor of Yoshi Hattori, a Japanese exchange student who was shot to death in Louisiana in 1992 while looking for a Halloween party. Since then, CeaseFire Washington has overseen the planting of more than 24,000 bulbs throughout King County.

  • Mall beefs up security: Bellevue Square shopping mall is upgrading security after police shot and killed a suspected bank robber in the hallway of a mall restaurant last week. Plans to enhance security were already under way, including more video cameras and a faster communications system with the mall’s 200 shopkeepers, Bellevue Square security director Clark Rice said. Shots have been fired in the mall twice in the past 20 years, he said. Police shot and killed Airen Lee Weaver last Tuesday in the Nordstrom Grill restaurant as they tried to arrest him after a robbery at a Bank of America branch a few blocks away.
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