All-clear for hazmat situation in Hendry County; still no answers

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The Hendry County Sheriff’s Office has given the all-clear after a mysterious substance made nearly two dozen people sick earlier this week.

Though the road reopened Friday evening, some are still feeling anxious in a small Hendry County community after several people, including first responders, got sick.

The response to determining what is in the air only became more extensive by the hour, and it’s been happening in LaBelle, at an industrial park off State Road 29, since Wednesday evening.

Several agencies responded to the scene, and they were brought in because they have better technology.

The agencies involved are:

  • Hendry County Sheriff’s Office
  • Clewiston Police Department (mutual aid/support staff)
  • Hendry County Fire/EMS
  • LaBelle Fire Department
  • Army National Guard CST (conducting testing for chemicals, air quality, etc.)
  • ATF Bomb Technician (supporting other agencies while search by Federal agencies continue)
  • FBI – WMD (precautionary measures with sophisticated technology to measure the air quality)
  • FBI (evidence collection)
  • DEP (any ground/soil contamination testing)
  • Lee County Unified Haz-Mat Team   

Friday, it remains unclear what exactly got into the air to make 21 people sick, and we’ve been told by authorities they don’t seem to know either.

One thing is for sure: people who live and work out there are getting very nervous about breathing in any toxic substance.

“If it goes in the air… I mean, if they just walk in and get sick… has to be in the air… if they ain’t touch nothing… just walking, get sick… it could be airborne,” said Tammy Hunter, a LaBelle resident.

Hendry County Hazmat scene. CREDIT: WINK News

WINK News learned from the City of Fort Myers that hazmat teams collected air samples on Thursday afternoon to test for foreign substances. However, none were found.

According to the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office, the problem area where the mysterious substance was contained by Friday afternoon.

“We’ve spent all morning going over videos, briefing these other agencies that have come in, and then they’re going to go in,” said Hendry County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Susan Harrelle. “It’s my understanding that they’re going to suit up this afternoon, and they’re going to go in and begin testing.”

The sheriff’s office confirmed that samples of the substances were sent to the lab for more in-depth testing. We are still waiting for those results.

The road closure sign has been removed, but the investigation remains active.

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