WEST CALDWELL, NJ — The Original Pancake House in West Caldwell was evacuated early Saturday afternoon due to a possible pepper spray incident that caused ambulances from the West Essex, Verona and Bloomfield First Aid Squads to assist at the scene.
Bianca Prieto, a West Orange mother of three, said she was seated inside the glass atrium on the south side of the building that faces Bloomfield Avenue around 12:30 p.m. when people at the surrounding tables began coughing heavily. She and 19-year-old daughter covered their faces and then saw that people were beginning to get up and leave.
“Once I saw people leaving, I told my daughter to get out and take my son to the car,” said Pietro, whose son, Benjamin, is four years old. “I stayed behind briefly to pay the bill, about one or two minutes. At that point, the entire restaurant was clearing out.”
She reflected that the West Caldwell police arrived within what seemed like 30 seconds, and that paramedics told her the original call came in as “a report of an explosion.”
“There were at least five children, my son included, who were given oxygen at the doorway and then examined,” she said. “I went to the car to get my son because I wanted him checked out because I didn't know what we were breathing in.”
She and her two children were among those who were examined inside an ambulance. Her family was fine, but she stated that another woman who was seated near the kitchen was complaining that she couldn't breathe and may have been transported to the hospital.
“The table of teen girls seated directly behind us were also treated,” said Pietro, who also estimated that at least 20 to 30 people were treated on scene. “I heard rumors on scene that it was possibly pepper spray that made everyone sick.”
According to the Breaking News Network (BNN), which reports on emergency radio activity, it was in fact pepper spray that caused the evacuation, but this has yet to be confirmed by authorities. More information will be provided as it becomes available by police.