Intense heat sickened at least 15 people, two critically, at a morning graduation ceremony today at Del Oro High School in Loomis, forcing the event's cancellation and sending a handful of spectators to local hospitals.
Five people were taken to area hospitals, including two initially listed in critical condition, said Loomis Fire Chief Dave Wheeler. Many of those stricken suffered heat exhaustion and heat stroke and ranged in age from 15 to 80 years of age and older.
As many as 7,000 people jammed into Del Oro High School's Golden Eagle Stadium as early as 7:30 a.m. for the scheduled 9 a.m. start on the field, Wheeler said.
"They were crammed together like sardines," he said.
The combination of soaring temperatures, high numbers of people crowded onto metal bleachers, the field's synthetic turf surface and little to no shade made for a dangerous mix, Wheeler said. The field's artificial surface likely raised the ambient temperature as much as 20 degrees.
Within minutes of the start of the 9 a.m. ceremony, people began to collapse from the heat, bringing responders from Loomis, Penryn, Roseville and Rocklin to tend to the heat-stricken spectators.
"They were all ages. They were dropping like flies. We couldn't contain it and didn't have the resources," Wheeler told the local Loomis News newspaper.
The most serious of the patients were treated with chilled intravenous fluids before being rushed to hospital.
"We tried to mitigate it as much as we could," Wheeler said, at one point telling black-clad graduates to shed their robes as a safety precaution.
By 9:45 a.m., the heat became too much and fire and school officials canceled the event. A call to Del Oro High principal Dan Gayaldo was not immediately returned. But Wheeler said his department "will be addressing options" with Del Oro for future daytime events at the stadium.
Call The Bee's Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.