– By Tiffani Ireland –
A tear gas release that was part of training exercises by the federal prison which neighbors the National Wild Turkey Federation affected several NWTF employees and construction workers at the site Thursday morning, Oct. 22, according to Ken Durham, Facilities Director, with NWTF. Durham said that employees reported seeing a yellowish cloud coming across the NWTF grounds that seemed to settle over a trailer located on the property. Affected persons reported burning eyes and throats. Symptoms lasted about ten minutes, but no one required medical treatment. There were patrons of the NWTF on the campus at the time of the incident, however, they were apparently upwind of the gas and were unaffected.
Speaking to The Advertiser following this incident, Durham stated that he was notified around 10:30 Thursday morning of a suspected gas release coming from the prison. After some time spent by the NWTF trying to contact the prison, prison officials did finally verify that CS gas, which is basically tear gas, was released. “I understand they have to train,” Durham told The Advertiser. “[We] just have to coordinate,” he said. Durham went on to add that the biggest concern over the incident was not being able to establish contact with prison officials when the event occurred. To that end he and the warden of the prison met Monday afternoon to discuss better communications between the two entities.
Durham spoke again with The Advertiser after his meeting with the warden calling it a “very good, very productive meeting.” Durham said that there is an “understanding in place” between the NWTF and the prison while more formal policies are being drafted. That understanding includes the NWTFs notification of activities at the prison such as training exercises or gas releases. It also provides that the prison will do training on days the NWTF is not open. According to Durham, the warden is to be meeting with legal advisors to draft memorandums of understanding for the two entities. Durham said that he was pleased with the meeting and added that the public’s safety at the NWTF is secure.
The Advertiser made repeated attempts to contact prison officials for their statement on this incident. A call was finally returned, and a press statement promised. However, no such statement had been received by press time.