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11 Hospitalized in Gas Leak

COLUMBIA, Md. -- Eleven people were hospitalized after they suffered carbon monoxide poisoning at a Columbia hotel last night, Howard County fire authorities said. The fire department was called to the Sheraton hotel near The Mall in Columbia around 6:15 p.m. for a carbon monoxide leak, fire spokeswoman Anna Hoffman said.

Guests, including many parents and children visiting for a youth hockey tournament, were evacuated from the 10-story hotel and 26 people were found to have suffered from mild carbon monoxide poisoning, Hoffman said.

Eleven people were taken to hospitals and 15 were treated by paramedics outside the hotel, which is in the 10200 block of Wincopin Circle, Hoffman said.

About 9:30 p.m., dozens of people remained outside the hotel, huddling in bunches or sitting in their cars to stay warm.

Lisa and Tom Whelan of Bergen County, N.J., said that they were staying at the hotel with their four children because their 11-year-old son, Alex, was playing at the International Silver Sticks hockey tournament in Columbia this morning.

Fire officials shut off the carbon monoxide leak, which they determined came from a laundry room, and were ventilating the building so that guests could return, Hoffman said. She did not have other details on the leak's source.

The families huddled outside said that this would be a Thanksgiving they would not forget.

"At least we were all together," said Tom Whelan. "That's what really matters."

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