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UPDATE: Children complain of burning skin and eyes after visit to Chilliwack playground

Deanna Hews said it was terrifying and traumatic watching her kids in pain, with no idea why

A Chilliwack mom was terrified Friday morning (Aug. 5) when her children came home from a local playground screaming in pain, complaining of burning skin.

Deanna Hews owns Pink ‘N’ Blue Kidz, a store at the corner of Mill Street and Wellington Avenue, and her teenage daughter will often take her two younger siblings to the nearby playground at Chilliwack Central Elementary Community School.

On Friday, they were only gone around 10 minutes when they returned to the store, Hews’s daughter and four-year-old son both in big-time distress.

“They were soaked head to toe, screaming ‘I’m burning! My eyes. I’m burning! I’m burning! I’m burning!” Hews recalled.

The teenager got the worst of it. Her face was completely red and her neck and arms were blotchy. The four-year-old’s face was completely red and neither one of them could open their eyes.

“It seemed to affect them in very strange places,” Hews said. “Their entire face. Their elbows, their wrist and the back of their legs, which is odd.”

She got them to the hospital as quickly as possible. At the same time, she called police and threw a quick post on Facebook to warn other parents of the danger.

“I’d be devastated to find out another kid went there right after and had the same situation, because it was very traumatic to see my kids like that,” she said.

The doctor in the emergency room at Chilliwack General Hospital couldn’t tell her exactly what it was, suggesting maybe a ‘topical skin cream’ had been wiped on the playground equipment. The whole scenario was especially frightening to Hews because she didn’t know and the doctor didn’t know.

She still has no idea what caused the burning, but for her daughter, burning lasted three hours.

“It was very, very scary to have no idea,” Hews said. “I could almost feel the burns myself because they were so upset. Even the doctor, he touched his eye after checking the kids out and told me it was burning. He told us to go home and disinfect everything, so we went home, stripped down in the middle of the front entrance-way, stuck our clothes in the washer and went to have cold showers.”

A facilities worker from Chilliwack School District was seen cordoning off equipment with yellow caution tape soon after. That person told The Progress there was nothing visual, but the playground would remain closed until staff could give it a thorough wipe down.

Hews was heartbroken when she heard her little son say he doesn’t want to go to playgrounds anymore. She hopes he can get past the trauma.

“When he said that I literally broke. I cried. I couldn’t even say it’ll be OK,” she said. “We have to get awareness out there so these parks can be monitored a bit more because something’s not right there. It’s very disturbing.”

Hew said RCMP were at the playground within minutes of her call. When contacted Friday afternoon, Sgt. Mike Sargent said they had no details to release on the incident.


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Eric Welsh

About the Author: Eric Welsh

I joined the Chilliwack Progress in 2007, originally hired as a sports reporter.
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