Authorities said the name of the dead man, who was in his 20s, was being withheld pending notification of next of kin. Attempts to resuscitate him at the scene were unsuccessful, fire officials said.
Austin Fire Department Batallion Chief Palmer Buck said fire units were called to the 21 Pearl Apartments in the West Campus neighborhood about 3:20 p.m. after residents reported finding a man unconscious and a strong odor permeating parts of the 136-unit building.
Officials said the odor appeared to be hydrogen sulfide, a chemical that can release fatal fumes.
“Crews in air packs and protective equipment went door to door” as several dozen residents were evacuated from several floors, Buck said. Those on other floors were told to shelter in place, he said.
Eric Jakubauskas, an Emergency Medical Services division chief, said 11 people were treated for chemical exposure, including five who were transported to University Medical Center at Brackenridge.
Buck said a warning sign was found outside the dead man’s apartment that read: “Stay out. H2S” – the chemical symbol for hydrogen sulfide.
He said while hydrogen sulfide “often has been used in chemical suicide we’re not sure that’s what we have here.” Austin Police on the scene late Wednesday afternoon declined comment.
Officials continued working to get the odors inside the apartment building cleared so residents could return home.
“It smelled like sewer fumes, really strong, and everybody was being told to get out,” said Chad Ferguson, a UT student from Austin who was visiting the apartment building to see a friend. “It was really pretty crazy, with everybody holding their breath until we could get out. It took us just a few minutes to get outside.”
News of the toxic-gas leak comes as the campus is still mourning the death of freshman dance student Haruka Weiser, whose body was found in a creek at UT last week. (Courtesy Chron.com)