Hendry deputies continue to investigate ‘mysterious substance’ that made 20 sick; Miami man arrested on outstanding warrant

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The Hendry County Sheriff’s Office has begun its investigation after a mysterious substance made 20 people ill, and they have now made an arrest.

Deputies responded to the scene early Wednesday night at the North Industrial Loop area on State Route 29 in Labelle.

Eight of the 20 people who fell ill and went to the hospital have been released.

According to HCSO, a search warrant was obtained to look through the 310 North Industrial Loop property. They are looking for stolen vehicles, weapons, tools, narcotics and chemicals.

In addition to deputies, Hendry County Fire, EMS, Fort Myers Fire, the Department of Environmental Protection and Homeland Security are also on the scene.

“They were doing a follow-up on a stolen vehicle,” said Hendry County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Susan Harrelle, “so they’ve been there for most of the day through the scene into the late afternoon.”

Deputies noticed an unconscious man they later identified as 45-year-old Juan Gonzalez Diaz of Miami inside a motorhome.

“They bang on the window to get the guy’s attention, and he’s unresponsive,” said Harrelle, “so they make entry to render first aid.”

She said as they were tending to Diaz, they began to feel sick.

“As they’re trying to take care of him and arouse him, get him up, get him out, deputies begin to feel ill,” said Harrelle.

Even some hazmat crew members who went in became sick.

Deputies said Diaz is now being held at the Hendry County Jail without bond on an outstanding federal warrant for a probation violation.

Hendry County deputies said the hazmat team members collected evidence while entering the home but became ill. As of Thursday afternoon, they were all doing OK.

Deputies told WINK News that the substance has not yet been identified.

Deputies maintained a consistent presence throughout Wednesday and into Thursday.

WINK News Reporter Olivia Jean spoke with neighbors who lived across the street from the scene. They were shocked and said these things never happen.

“Here in this neighborhood? This never happens. We have small break-ins, we have people trying to sell drugs here but we’re cleaning up the neighborhood. All of the neighbors are working together. They watch each other’s houses. This never happens anymore here. Years ago, probably yes, but no longer. I am very surprised about this,” Sanjuana Burns said.

Stay tuned to WINKNews.com, WINK News App, streaming, and on air for any new developments on this story.

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