A Fire Department hazardous materials team was unable to determine what caused people in the District courtroom at the Kona Courthouse in Kealakekua to begin coughing Monday morning.
West Hawaii Battalion Chief Reuben Chun said the Fire Department was called to the courthouse after people were removed from the courtroom.
“There’s a possibility that maybe an irritant was released,” Chun said. “All they heard was someone started coughing. There was no actually witnessed release.”
Chun said Fire Department paramedics examined a few people at their request, but no one asked for further treatment.
Josh Sagg was at the courthouse early Monday and was in the courtroom when he heard someone begin coughing. He said the incident happened around 9 a.m. and people were initially told they would be able to re-enter the building around 9:30 a.m.
Chun said the building had reopened by a little before 11 a.m.
The hazardous material team did investigate the area, but the equipment did not pick up any of the substances for which it checks, Chun said.
Lester Oshiro, administrator for the 3rd Circuit Court, said he was awaiting an update from the Department of Public Safety about the situation. He described it as a “noxious odor” and said it affected only the District courtroom.
“It didn’t seem like it was an attack on the court or anything,” Oshiro said.
Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said it was unlikely the department may ever know for certain what caused the odor. She said the courtroom was cleared within about half an hour of the initial report.
“Our sergeant handled the situation efficiently,” Schwartz said.