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Potential gas leak ends Dance Team practice

Dylan Pichnarcik / THE GATEPOST

Dylan Pichnarcik

Asst. News Editor 

University Police and the Framingham Fire Department responded to an unknown smell in the Athletic Center, which caused members of the Dance Team to report feeling sick and cut their practice short Feb. 27.

University Police were dispatched to the Athletic Center after Gabriella Florio, a junior, called to report a strong odor and “hissing” sound coming from the aerobics room. 

Gabriella Florio, Alexa Gibson, Kayla Barboza, Zophie Greenwald, Emma Depina, and Molly Matley, all members of the dance team, reported hearing a loud hissing sound followed by a strong smell of gas in the aerobics room. 

The smell caused them all to feel unwell and “incredibly lightheaded,” according to Florio. They evacuated the space shortly after the smell filled the room.   

“The President of the Dance team tried calling [University Police] and it did not go through,” she said. “So I called and told them about a hissing sound and then a minute later the [aerobics] room smelled of what we presumed was gas so we all left because we felt lightheaded.” 

According to Florio, shortly after making the call to University Police, multiple officers were on scene and could also smell the odor. After determining they did not have the proper equipment, the officers called the Framingham Fire Department.  

Sargeant Harry Singh, one of the officers who responded, said it is customary for the department to contact the Framingham Fire Department in instances where a possible gas leak is detected. 

Singh said he remained on scene until it was determined by the responding firefighters that there was no threat to the safety of students.

There was no formal report filed with University Police.

Alexa Gibson, president of the Dance Team, said the explanation of the smell given to her by the responding officers was “rubber belts in the ceiling” caused by the activation of the heating system. 

Gibson said she was surprised by this explanation. 

She said, “We’ve been in there [aerobics room] four days a week for three years, some dancers for four [years], and that has never happened, so we don’t have an explanation.” 

In an official report filed by the Framingham Fire Department, responders were on campus for approximately 24 minutes with a crew of 15 led by Lt. Chad Boylan. 

The fire department used multi-gas detectors to determine if there were any gasses detected in the air. It was reported that at the time of the fire department's investigation, the smell had dissipated from the aerobics room. 

According to the report, University Police was to follow up with the maintenance department to find and repair the source of the smell.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Facilities, University Police also reported the incident the following day. As of Feb. 28, there is no action pending from Facilities.

It was also reported by Florio that she was told by the Framingham Fire Department to file a report with the maintenance department, which she did on Feb. 28. 

Members of the Dance Team expressed their concern about being in the aerobics room. 

Kayla Barboza, the Dance Team publicist, said, “I have a heart problem. So I am at risk with high heart rates. … I have passed out in the past. I'm very sensitive to strong smells.” 

Barboza also reported a nose bleed following the incident, something that she believes is related due to “the timing being suspicious.”   

Zophie Greenwald, a sophomore, reported being “up in the air, in a lift” at the time when the dancers began smelling the odor coming from the walls. 

“I don’t know why there are weird sounds and smells coming from the room,” she said. 

“We’re in there almost every day and it has never happened. We were all very confused,” she added.

Emma Depina, a sophomore, who was leading the practice at the time, appreciated the police responding, but did not feel they gave a clear explanation of the issue. 

“They were very nice and were just doing their job … but they said there was no problem, but I know what gas smells like and I don’t really think it was a heater.” 

Others on the team like Molly Matley, a junior, said she felt the police did not take the dancers' concerns seriously.

She said, “I felt like they dismissed the whole thing.” 

She added, “It probably would have gone differently if it were a man reporting a leak. They just made us feel silly. I feel like they would have been more interested if a guy called. … It’s really disheartening.” 

Other students who are not on the Dance Team also expressed concerns for the overall well-being and safety of students on campus. 

Sophomore Emily Crossin said, “It sounds like a pretty typical FSU scenario - we're in poor conditions all the time. I hope everyone involved was safe.” 

Crossin added she is also a member of The Hilltop Players and said that she experienced a similar issue while at rehearsals for previous drama productions. 

Sophomore Abrianna Ouellette said, “There’s an odd smell everywhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a gas leak but it's good that the police responded.” 

Dance Team returned to their regular rehearsals the following day. According to Gibson, there was no smell reported by any of the dancers. 

She added, “Safety [of the team] is very important. … We don’t want to see anyone get hurt.” 

She said, “We just want safe conditions so that we can practice our talent. No one on the team wants to see something like this happen anywhere on campus.” 



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