By Rachel Dove
WILLIAMSON - County and judicial employees who work inside the Municipal Building and the Mingo County Courthouse were thankful the weather was tolerable on Friday, since they were all asked to vacate their places of work due to a gas odor that was said to have been strong enough to cause burning in the throat, eyes and nasal passages of several workers.
According to Mingo County Court Bailiff Brian Haney, who serves the magistrates of the county, a law enforcement officer was the first to point out that he detected a strong gaslike odor in the elevator. Haney began checking with other offices in the building and made the decision to order an evacuation, contacting the Williamson Fire Department and Mountaineer Gas to come to the scene.
“Brian acted quickly and efficiently and our health and safety was his foremost concern,” said Candace Harper, who serves as the assistant to Magistrate Dee Sidebottom. “He did exactly what he needed to do. We have a good group of guys who serve the county as court marshals and they deserve credit for a job well done.”
Day Report Supervisor Lowell Sparks’ office is located in the basement of the Municipal Building, and he said the smell was so strong that it made him ill and caused burning in his throat and eyes. Another bailiff reported burning in his eyes and nasal passages, while quite a few commented that they were experiencing headaches. No one required medical treatment.
The cause of the odor was said to have stemmed from a gasoline leak from a vehicle that had broken down in front of the courthouse earlier in the morning that allegedly leaked a large amount of gas into the storm drain on Second Avenue. Once the gas traveled into the pipes under the building, the odor made its way into the buildings.
Members of the Williamson Fire Department flushed the drains with water from nearby fire hydrants and the workers were cleared to return to their offices approximately an hour and a half later. Sidebottom contacted the state Supreme Court to make them aware of what had happened and bailiffs remained outside the doors of the buildings during the evacuation to prevent anyone else from entering.