It began as a child's birthday party with a carnival-like atmosphere that included popcorn makers, moon bounces and cotton-candy machines.
But it turned into a nightmare Saturday when the generator used to power those devices was brought indoors, causing 17 people to suffer from carbon-monoxide poisoning.
Guests at the private party, which was held at the H & H Community Development Center, on East Haines Street near Limekiln Pike, in West Oak Lane, called medics about 8:30 p.m. after several people fell ill, including a child who was passing out, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said.
When medics and fire personnel arrived on scene, only 15 of the 75 guests remained.
"We believe that some folks may have felt sick or had taken agitated children home not knowing what the problem was," Ayers said. "But at some point, someone thought, 'Something is going on here.' "
Four adults and four children on the scene were immediately taken to Albert Einstein Medical Center for treatment, Ayers said. Meanwhile, the party host attempted to alert by phone those who had already left.
In addition to the eight people brought to Einstein by medics, seven more from the party sought treatment throughout the night.
Two of the kids were transferred to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where they were treated in a hyperbaric chamber, which provides oxygen treatment.
"Children are usually much worse off than adults because they breath faster and their bodies are smaller, so you're getting more into the bloodstream," Ayers said.
Yesterday, another adult sought treatment at a Delaware County hospital, and another child was taken to CHOP. All patients had already been released or were expected to be released by last night, Ayers said.
Officials believe that the source of the carbon monoxide was the generator and not any deficiency with the building itself.
"Any generator should be used in an outside, open-air situation," Ayers said. "You should never have a generator that is not vented to the outside. It generates carbon monoxide."
The building did not have a carbon-monoxide detector, but it's not believed that it was required to have one under a new city law that went into effect this year, Ayers said. That law requires all one-or-two family dwellings and all assisted-care facilities with 16 or fewer patients to install a carbon-monoxide detector.
This incident is a perfect example of why the law should be expanded, Ayers said.
"We want to extend this carbon-monoxide law so we can get safety in every work and living space," he said.