This is a developing story.

A group of about 15 employees at The Hotel Emma at the Pearl were evaluated at local hospitals Wednesday after exhibiting signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the San Antonio Fire Department.

The entire hotel — staff, guests and members of the public inside the hotel — was evacuated, said SAFD spokesman Joe Arrington, but there was no immediate danger to the nearby public.

Officials determined Wednesday evening that there was no gas leak in the hotel.

“It was not a leak, it’s a build up of CO from incomplete combustion,” said Arrington. “We are working with the hotel maintenance to assist them in find the cause of this CO build up.”

As of Wednesday evening, the hotel was still closed to guests, according to a staffer who answered the hotel’s main number.

More than a dozen emergency response vehicles were at the hotel by 1 p.m., including a hazardous materials unit.

The employees reported experiencing headaches, nausea and dizziness.

“No one was in dire need to go to the hospital,” Arrington said. “It was all precautionary.” 

The initial 9-1-1 call was made by a member of the hotel staff on behalf of a single employee, but once SAFD personnel arrived on the scene, he said, they questioned staff, 14 of whom reported similar symptoms.

SAFD units respond to a carbon monoxide leak at the Hotel Emma where at least 15 people were taken to local hospitals.
SAFD units respond to a carbon monoxide leak at the Hotel Emma, where at least 15 people were taken to local hospitals with symptoms such as headaches, nausea and dizziness. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The luxury Hotel Emma, set in the Pearl’s original brewhouse, is often recognized as one of top hotels in the country by any number of measures. Opened in 2015, the 146-room hotel immediately became a destination for visitors and locals alike.

On the hotel’s reservation page Wednesday, an image of a calendar showed Jan. 11 crossed out in red. Below was this note: “We apologize for the inconvenience. This hotel is not available on January 11, 2023. Please select alternate dates.”

CEO Jon Sakshaug told the San Antonio Report the hotel decided to not take additional guests through the evening.

“Obviously we’re not happy about that,” Sakshaug said.

Since employees were hospitalized this morning, leadership staff have been in contact with them, Sakshaug said, and they reported they were feeling better and ready to get back to work.

The hotel released a statement Wednesday afternoon: “The safety and experience of our associates and guests is our top priority. Out of an abundance of caution, Hotel Emma has been safely evacuated and we are watching the situation closely. We are supporting SAFD’s evacuation efforts and keeping the area clear while they conduct their investigation.”

Southerleigh restaurant, which also was evacuated, was scheduled to reopen at 4 p.m. Wednesday, the statement said. The rest of Pearl’s properties were not impacted and remained open.

Sakshaug said he was uncertain when things would go back to normal at the hotel, as public safety and CPS Energy officials were still working throughout the building.

Beth Smith, Hotel Emma’s chief marketing officer, said the hotel would “take every precaution to make sure everyone is safe — our staff and our guests.”

“We will not send our guests back in, whether it be Supper [the hotel’s restaurant] or the hotel, until we’re absolutely sure” it’s safe and that emergency personnel have given the all-clear to return.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can build up indoors and can kill if too much is inhaled. Created when fuel is burned, the most common causes of carbon monoxide poisoning are from vehicle engines and fuel-burning appliances like space heaters, dryers and water heaters.

In addition to headache and dizziness, carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms can include upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.

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Raquel Torres

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. She previously worked at the Tyler Morning Telegraph and is a 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University.