The Treasure Island course at Paradise Mini Golf backs onto a ravine where owner Susan LaFouci suspects an unidentified substance may have wafted up from. - Emily Vance photo

Strange smell evacuates Parksville mini golf course

Waft of unknown substance caused people to cough, choke

Webb Anderson was playing mini golf July 21 with his family of six in Parksville, when something strange happened.

Anderson says they were on hole 7 or 8 on the Treasure Island course at Paradise Mini Golf when he noticed the father and daughter of the family playing ahead of them become unwell.

“He started looking at me really strange as I was waiting for him to play through his hole. He’s looking at me, he’s going like – ‘man the pollen around here is terrible,’” said Anderson.

“He starts coughing and sneezing, his face is all red. He’s like ‘man I have to get out of here, I have to get out of here,” And immediately his kid started doing the same thing,” said Anderson.

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He thought they were joking at first, but it still looked like they were in trouble, so he headed towards the little girl to try and help her.

“As soon as I took like two steps, it started affecting me… the first thing that crossed my mind was ‘These guys are not lying, there’s something in the air,’” said Anderson.

“I turned around, I was looking at my kids, and my kids are starting to cough and choke and act funny. My littlest one, she was starting to barf… I was just like ‘man, we have to get out of here.’”

Anderson has no idea what it was, but said the sensation was palpable and overwhelming. Every time he went to breathe, he couldn’t, and would start coughing.

“It didn’t seem to taste like anything, it didn’t seem to smell like anything… all of a sudden you just couldn’t breathe. You go to breathe in, and it was like you were breathing sand down your throat, and your throat just closed up. It was a weird sort of a panicky sort of sensation,” said Anderson.

Paradise Mini Golf owner Susan LaFouci was there and said she smelled it as well.

Although Anderson describes it as an odourless gas, LaFouci says she smelled something she can’t describe.

“It wasn’t very nice. It took your breath away,” said LaFouci.

The staff evacuated all the affected areas, checked the facilities for any kind of leak and found nothing out of the ordinary.

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LaFouci says nothing like this has ever happened at Paradise before. She thinks it was something that wafted in off the highway or from a nearby ravine, and also wondered if it was something thrown from a passing vehicle.

“We checked everything, and it was nothing from here. I think it was just somebody with nothing better to do. Somebody being stupid,” said LaFouci.

Both Anderson and LaFouci agreed it didn’t cause the same symptoms as bear spray, which Anderson says many of the other mini-golfers suspected.

After about half an hour, Anderson says families returned to other areas of Paradise. About an hour after the incident, people returned to playing on the Treasure Island course.

The NEWS reached out to the City of Parksville, the Oceanside RCMP and Fortis BC. None reported any related leaks or complaints at the time of the incident.

emily.vance@pqbnews.com

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