Stinnett, TX - The Hutchinson County Jail remains empty Thursday night after being evacuated because of a gas leak.
The main gas regulator at the jail malfunctioned Wednesday evening, causing a carbon monoxide leak. The Hutchinson County Sheriff's Department evacuated 66 inmates because of the leak.
"We had some of our jailers and inmates complaining of headaches and nausea. We knew immediately there was a good chance of carbon monoxide poisoning," said Chief Deputy James Qualls.
Inmates were transferred to the jails in Potter, Randall and Carson counties with the help of the Stinnett School District.
"Thank goodness we have a fantastic school district here in Stinnett," said Qualls. "We used their buses. Even the superintendent drove one of the buses. He drove the bus to Potter County. Without the school district, we would have really had a problem. We had 66 inmates to get out and putting them in patrol cars would have taken many, many hours to do, so it worked out fantastic."
Jail officials said they didn't have any security problems despite dealing with so many inmates. "The inmates were very cooperative," said Cpt. Heath Woods. "They responded well to us. They minded their manners very well. They knew what was going on and that we were trying to do the very best thing for them."
They kept the jail closed Thursday to make repairs to the gas regulator, to replace all the air filters, to wash bedding and to air out the facility. Jail officials said they don't know the total cost of the repairs but said it won't be cheap. "It's going to be quite expensive," said Qualls. "Housing the inmates at other locations, and doing the repairs is going to be quite expensive."
Qualls said the jail will reopen once the Texas Commission on Jail Standards determines the facility is safe to house inmates. Officials from the commission are expected Friday morning and Qualls hopes to have the jail open by Friday afternoon.