25 hospitalized, 5 critical, after mass casualty event at Redlands wedding venue

REDLANDS — More than two dozen guests at a Redlands wedding venue were hospitalized after falling ill yesterday evening, Saturday, Sept. 8. Five of those sickened had injuries described as major and were listed in critical condition.

The mass-casualty event, which triggered a HazMat and environmental health response, happened on the 31100 block of San Timoteo Canyon Road, between Redlands Blvd. and Palmer Ave., in an unincorporated area between Moreno Valley and Calimesa.

Although it was not immediately known if the incident happened at a private ranch or business, many of the emergency vehicles were seen staging both inside Country Feels Ranch as well as along the road outside the wedding venue, which can accommodate more than 500 guests on their 28 acre ranch.

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Emergency first responders first began to get wind of the crisis about 8 p.m., when dispatchers started getting reports of people complaining of nausea and vomiting at the rural ranch where the wedding was occurring. Reports indicate that what started out as just a handful of sickened soon swelled to more than two dozen after the first engine company arrived at the chaotic scene.

A total of nine ambulance crews were summoned to transport sickened victims. The remaining victims were transported to area hospitals in a bus provided by Beaumont PD and Pass Transit. Nathan Wilking/RVCNews photo

Based on the circumstances and officials not knowing what was causing the multiple victims, firefighters at the scene declared a mass casualty event and began requesting additional resources to the location, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Mark League explained from the scene.

Thirty-five firefighters from nine engine companies and a Breathing Support Unit eventually responded to the scene, Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire spokesperson Jody Hagemann later explained in an incident report. They were assisted by the department’s Hazardous Materials Team and Hazardous Materials Support Unit, Cal Fire/San Bernardino, and Riverside County Environmental Health.

Nearly a dozen American Medical Response ambulances crews and supervisors responded to the ranch as well, as did Beaumont PD and Pass Transit which sent a large police bus to help transport sickened victims to area hospitals.

A total of twenty-five victims, including five with major symptoms that were categorized by League as “immediate,” nine with moderate symptoms, and eleven with minor symptoms were eventually transported from the venue.

Although Riverside County Fire’s Hazardous Materials team has ruled out hazardous materials as the cause of last night’s emergency, “the investigation continues,” according to Newman, who explained the department’s Hazardous Materials Team and County Environmental Health officials are working together to determine the cause.

This is a developing story that will be updated as new information is available.

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Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 47, recently moved to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 14 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.