Family Claims Children Became Sick After Swimming at Austin Hotel

Posted at: 03/11/2014 10:54 PM
Updated at: 03/12/2014 8:57 AM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- The pool and water park at the Holiday Inn in Owatonna are closed until further notice after a mysterious incident this weekend.

Parents say their children developed rashes, had swollen eyes and experienced vomiting after swimming in that pool.

The hotel contacted the state Department of Health, which is currently investigating.

In the meantime, other families are now coming forward, claiming their children also became sick after swimming in pools at other Holiday Inns in Minnesota.

That includes a number of Austin  families who say a similar situation happened at the Austin Holiday Inn.

"Seeing your kids suffer through something, it boils your blood,” said Joe Flaherty of Austin.

Flaherty said his daughter Lily went to a birthday party at the Austin Holiday Inn back in February.

A dozen or so kids spent several hours in the water, and although they all showered afterwards, it wasn't long before they started developing painful irritations with their skin and eyes.

"I talked to one of the grandparents today who said his granddaughter had a rash. It lasted about three or four days and it was just really irritable,” Flaherty said.

As for eye irritations, Flaherty said his own daughter had goggles, but many others didn’t.

“I know one girl, [her reaction] probably lasted about four days as far as the burning and being really sensitive,” Flaherty said.

The manager of the Austin Holiday Inn says state inspectors did a routine check of the pool a few days before the party and a few days after concerns were raised.

Both times he said chemical levels in the pool checked out as normal, adding that all of the equipment was replaced just last year.

Both hotel management and parents said they considered the fact that dry skin could have played a role, but despite normal chlorine readings, Flaherty said he and his wife still suspect chemicals because of what they say the water did to their daughter's swimsuit.

"It was a bright blue swimsuit and now I can't even explain the color,” Flaherty said. “It's like a light green or brown."

Flaherty said he's drafting a letter to the company's corporate office to try and figure out what happened.

"You go to have fun. The Holiday Inn is a great place to go for a child, swimming in the winter time,” Flaherty said. “But to have that in the back of your mind, now it's no fun at all."

ABC 6 News checked with the Minnesota Department of Health and it has received no  complaints regarding the Holiday Inn in Austin.

As far as the Owatonna Hotel pool is concerned, the Department of Health says there have been no other complaints going back to 2008, but that the pool has been shut down twice because of high levels of chlorine. The the shut down took place in January of this year.