Sudden illness at FCI Beckley caused by “suspicious package”

30 October 2006: An employee at the Federal Correctional Institution in Beckley, West Virginia became extremely ill – suddenly and violently, while opening mail in the institution’s mail room in the prison’s medium security area about 11:30 a.m. last Thursday. As a result, a HAZMAT team and units from the Beckley Police Department, Beckley Fire Department, West Virginia State Police, Beaver Volunteer Fire Department, West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office, Raleigh County Emergency Operations Center, Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department and Jan-Care Ambulance were dispatched to the scene. Forty-one-(41) prison staff members and inmates were taken to local hospitals. Those sent for treatment were transported to two area hospitals: the Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital (B-ARH) and Raleigh General Hospital. Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital went into “Emergency Plan Delta,” a high level of emergency response. Visitors at B-ARH were asked to leave the hospital without explanation, and the hospital’s emergency room was quarantined after the arrival of the first patient from the prison. Those inside of the emergency room were required to wear bio-hazard protective gear and were not allowed to leave until the “all-clear” was given.

Initial reports described the prison employee as suffering from a “momentary adverse reaction” after opening a suspicious package. According to officials, the response team determined there were no signs of any hazardous material, and symptoms exhibited by the affected staff member “have since dissipated.” No explanation of the employee’s sudden illness was offered by officials or hospital personnel. Accordiing to one prison official, the institution returned to normal operations shortly before 6:00 p.m. Thursday, but “no information could be given about the situation.”

FCI Beckley is located in Raleigh County, West Virginia, approximately 51 miles southeast of Charleston, and 136 miles northwest of Roanoke, Virginia.