The Prospect Park ice-skating rink’s ammonia-based coolant system sprang a leak on Wednesday evening, releasing noxious fumes that sent 11 people to hospital and forced nearby shops to close their doors as customers ran for cover, according to one local entrepreneur.
“It was terrible,” said Tony Fongyit who runs Scoops Ice Cream on Flatbush Avenue between Chester and Westbury courts, and shut up shop an hour early in order to escape the stink. “Terrible to the max.”
Firefighters responded to reports of the putrid odor at the LeFrak Center on the Prospect Lefferts Gardens side of the park at 7:17 pm, which led them to a large container at the operating plant that makes ice for the rink that was spewing a miasma of gaseous ammonia, according to a fire department spokesman.
Police closed park at 9 pm, according to Prospect Park Alliance rep Grace McCreight, but it wasn’t until 11:50 pm — more than four hours after first responders arrived on the scene — that they shut off the valve controlling the rink’s coolant system and plugged up the fount of foul fumes, according to a police spokesman.
In that time, emergency responders took eight firefighters and three civilians to hospital for injuries caused by inhaling the fetid effluvium, according to an fire department spokesman.
Sniffing ammonia fumes can burn your nose and throat and make it difficult to breathe, which Fongyit said he witnessed first-hand as locals fled the area with handkerchiefs clutched to their nostrils.
“Everyone had a kerchief or something on their nose,” he said.
The rink has been closed all week as Upsilon Ventures, which operates the facility, hustles to convert it from roller skating to ice skating for the winter and is expected to reopen on Oct. 31, McCreight said.
Prospect Pack is now back open to the public and the parks department is conducting the investigation into the cause of the leak, she said.