Officials await results of tests on envelopes left at bank
The general public was not endangered.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- Mahoning County emergency officials hope to learn today what was on or in envelopes deposited overnight at the First National Bank branch, 7025 Market St., that caused two employees who opened them to quickly develop hand irritation.
No visible substance was found, said Boardman Fire Chief James Dorman, who headed the emergency team assembled to deal with the possible bioterrorism threat.
The suspicious envelopes, about a dozen in all, were hand-delivered Tuesday afternoon to an Ohio Department of Health laboratory in Columbus by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, said Walter Duzzny, director of the Mahoning County Disaster Services Agency.
Both Duzzny and Dorman said they were hopeful the lab would provide an answer today as to what, if anything, was on or in the envelopes that caused the itching.
In the meantime, the bank branch remained closed and its parking lot barricaded. The four bank employees -- two who experienced itching and two others who were in the building at the time but had no symptoms -- were in isolation at St. Elizabeth Health Center. Dorman would not reveal their identity.
What was done
The Mahoning County Haz-Mat Team erected tents in which the four bank employees disrobed, were decontaminated with soap and water, and then dressed in clean clothing before being transported to the hospital. There, Duzzny said the victims would undergo a number of tests and be monitored for additional symptoms.
During the decontamination process, they were monitored by medical personnel to make sure no other symptoms developed, Duzzny said. Their clothing was collected and is being held as evidence by the Boardman police, he said.
Dorman said the victims were calm and handled themselves well during the ordeal, which lasted several hours from the time it was reported to the fire department at 10 a.m. until they were all taken to the hospital.
Because the episode was confined to the bank building, the general public was not endangered, Dorman said.
The main objective of the whole operation, Duzzny said, was to minimize exposure to other people.
Who was there
Other emergency and law enforcement organizations represented were Boardman police, who handled traffic control; the FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Youngstown Police Bomb Squad; Mahoning County Health Department; the St. Elizabeth Health Center Mobile Emergency Care Unit; Rural-Metro ambulances; and the Salvation Army.
"You hate to have a real incident, but it was a good exercise," Dorman said.
Pete Asimakopoulos, regional president of First National Bank, said Tuesday he did not know how long the bank's Market Street branch would be closed.
"Once it is determined what caused the itching, we'll take the steps necessary for the safety of the public and our employees," he said.