Anxious moments

STEUBENVILLE – Visitors, family and patients arriving for appointments were turned away from the Trinity Medical Center West campus Wednesday morning as city firefighters and Columbia Gas crews searched for the source of a strong natural gas odor.

The initial call to the fire department came at 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, and responding firefighters said they immediately smelled natural gas. The Medical Pavilion was evacuated at about 9:30 a.m. Other buildings on campus followed suite, including the Tony Teramana Cancer Center.

Patients in the process of receiving medical care were allowed to stay, but ambulance traffic was diverted to other medical facilities for part of the morning.

A security guard stationed at the entrance to the Trinity West campus was stopping traffic from entering the area.

Keith Murdock, Trinity director of marketing and public relations, said ambulances and family members were allowed to enter the Trinity West campus to pick up discharged patients.

“Patients have not been moved. It is just the medical pavilion that was evacuated,” Murdock said Wednesday at the scene.

At about 10:30 a.m., gas was restored in the pavilion. By about 11:35 a.m., the grounds were declared “all-clear” and the emergency code was called off. After being declared safe by officials, the hospital resumed normal operations.

Murdock said officials determined the leak did not originate on Trinity property.

A city fire department spokesman said Catholic Central High School also evacuated students and teachers from the school. Central Principal Rich Wilinski said that he had walked through the school building and did not detect any odor.

Assistant Fire Chief Mike Taylor said that once the odor began to dissipate, it did not come back.

“We deemed the hospital and grounds safe after we went through every floor of the building with gas detectors and found everything was clear. I smelled the odor all the way from Johnson Road on the way there, so when it’s widespread like that, it’s an indicator that the smell did not start inside the building,” Taylor said.

Crews from Columbia Gas wrapped up their investigation at about 1 p.m. after they were unable to find the source of the odor, according to Shane Cartmill, Columbia external affairs specialist.

“By the time our crews arrived, the odor had already dissipated,” Cartmill said. “Leakage inspectors, service technicians and field supervisors conducted an extensive search in the area where the smell was reported, working their way out into surrounding areas. As far as we can see there is nothing to indicate that the odor came from our gas delivery system.”

(Dalrymple can be reached at