Mall security officers removed two garbage cans, but nothing was found in them, fire Battalion Chief Mike Nichols said. Shoppers were kept from walking down a stretch of the mall between J.C. Penney and the food court while the situation was checked out, mall workers said.
NAPLES — Six people were sickened Saturday afternoon by an unknown airborne substance that wafted through part of Coastland Center mall, Naples fire officials said.
City fire Battalion Chief Mike Nichols said the substance likely was mace, but no source was found. The substance quickly dissipated. Nobody witnessed anyone discharging a substance, and mall security cameras didn't pick up anything, Nichols said.
The first sign something was amiss came a little before 3:30 p.m., when shoppers and workers in part of the mall near the food court began feeling nose and throat irritation, workers at the mall's T-Mobile kiosk said.
"Next thing I know everybody's coughing," T-Mobile worker Justin Klein said. "It's crazy."
Mall security officers removed two garbage cans, but nothing was found in them, Nichols said. Shoppers were kept from walking down a stretch of the mall between J.C. Penney and the food court while the situation was checked out, mall workers said.
Given the symptoms and passing nature of the incident, Nichols said, a "minor amount" of the substance was discharged.
Two medic units and two fire trucks were dispatched to the mall, Nichols said. No one was hospitalized, but the six sickened people had their blood pressure and blood oxygen levels taken, Nichols said. He said air tests found no air quality problems.
Mall security officers wouldn't comment, referring questions to the mall management office, which was closed.
Nichols called it a "large leap" to suggest the incident was prompted by Friday's mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater, but that tragedy was on at least one mall worker's mind. The shooter began his rampage by setting off gas canisters.
"It gets everybody freaked out," Charley's Grills Subs worker Rick Shellhorn said.