Caesars evacuated after spill
A chemical spill at Caesars Indiana riverboat pavilion last Tuesday night prompted the evacuation of several hundred people.
New Albany Deputy Fire Chief Chris Rainbolt estimated that 400 to 600 people, mostly employees, were evacuated just after 10 p.m. A two- hour cruise had just started, and those on the boat were held there until almost midnight, when it was deemed safe for them to leave the boat and enter the pavilion.
Caesars Executive Vice President and General Manager Barry Morris said the number was more likely 300 to 350, because a riverboat cruise had just started, and that is when the pavilion is at its slowest. There were 1,150 guests on the 9 p.m. cruise that had just left, and the guests remained on board for almost three hours.
A container of industrial-strength dish washing detergent, sodium hydroxide, was spilled in the kitchen of the employee cafeteria on the third floor of the pavilion. This kitchen also prepares food for the restaurant venue on the boat, Morris said.
When the detergent came in contact with an aluminum pan, a dangerous hydrogen gas was produced. The gas produced requires a chemical protective suit to be worn, Rainbolt said. That required the Louisville Fire Dept.’s hazardous materials team to be called in.
Exhaust fans at the Caesars’ complex were used to clear the gas, which was quickly removed.
No property damage occurred as result of the accident.
One female employee was transported to University of Louisville Hospital, where she was treated and released. She complained of respiratory problems, but her problems were likely more emotional than physical, said Morris.
The spill caused the 11 p.m. cruise to be canceled, but the normal schedule resumed when boarding began again at 1 a.m. Tuesday night, with 500 guests. Morris said there was no loss of revenue because of the accident. “We were a little stronger because we kept these people on the boat,” he said. “But that isn’t how we want to make money.”
The accident did not incite a fear factor among guests. Wednesday was an especially strong day, Morris said.