Troubleshooter: Hazmat scare

March 2, 2010 4:26:18 PM PST
A hazmat scare at a local restaurant has left some Triangle residents with thousands of dollars in medical bills.The scare shut down a Knightdale restaurant for several hours and six people had to be taken to the hospital.

Camille Coleman says she still remembers the November morning she got sick at a Knightdale McDonald's, along with her friend, Linda Kay Norris.

"I started coughing really bad," Coleman said.

"My brother went to get her some water thinking because that will normally help, when he did that, as he was away getting her water, I began to choke," Norris said.

It turned out the whole McDonald's had to be evacuated.

"On our arrival, we found 31 people who had been exposed to some type of hazardous material," Wake EMS District Chief Jeff Hammerstein said.

Coleman, Norris, and Norris' brother were three of the people who had to be transported to the hospital for treatment.

Coleman even had follow-up treatment with her own doctor, causing the medical bills to add up.

"Mine are about $2,400 and I think the three of us total is over $6,000 in expenses," Coleman said. "All along we were led to believe that they would cover our expenses."

All three say they were eventually contacted by McDonald's insurance company and they gave the insurance representative statements.

In the meantime, their medical bills needed paid.

"For me my insurance did not cover it," Coleman said. "So I'm paying out of pocket, I've paid more than half and then I set up a payment plan."

Then they received a letter from McDonald's insurance company, which states they're denying the claim to pay their medical bills.

"I'm upset because I am a patron of McDonalds, I like McDonalds, I take my kids there," Norris said. "I'm upset that they won't take care of their patrons."

"We're not asking for pain and suffering or anything like that," Coleman added. "We were patrons in the establishment and I would just expect that they would cover our expenses."

So Coleman contacted I-Team Troubleshooter Diane Wilson for help.

ABC11 got all their information to a McDonald's rep and all three received a phone call from a rep at the insurance company for the Knightdale McDonald's.

"She said that as a courtesy McDonald's would pay my hospital, my EMS care and my hospital expense," Coleman said.

But Coleman says she is still disappointed, she had follow-up visits to her doctor and she says the insurance rep said those would not be covered as they would only cover the hospital care, and EMS care as a courtesy. The owner of the local McDonald's franchise, Gary Thill, said that "nothing is more important to me than the safety and well-being of my customers and employees. We require all our restaurants to be in full compliance with local, state and federal regulations, as well as adhere to our own stringent standards."

"Upon learning about this matter, we cooperated fully with the authorities in their investigation," Thill said. "They concluded that nothing in our restaurant caused the incident, nor were we responsible for the matter. Beyond that, it would be inappropriate to comment or speculate on what may have caused this situation. As always, we remain committed to operating safe restaurants for our employees and customers."

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