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Families of Florence children exposed to tear gas file lawsuit against state

FILE - In this July 23, 2014, file photo, a fence surrounds the state prison in Florence, Ariz. (AP Photo/File)

PHOENIX – A lawsuit against the state of Arizona has been filed by the families of students who were exposed to prison crowd control gas after a training exercise.

According to Court House News, the lawsuit was filed against the state of Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey, Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan and prison warden Kevin Curran on Tuesday.

The lawsuit stems from a Feb. 15, 2017 incident in which CS gas from the Florence prison complex was released as part of a training exercise.

According to the complaint, the gas was carried by “volatile winds” throughout the surrounding neighborhood and onto the playgrounds of Florence Elementary School, just a few blocks away.

Richard Franco with the Florence Unified School District said students at the school were on the playground a little before noon when they began complaining of exposure to the gas.

“Within a few minutes of them being outside, they started coming and reporting burning eyes and throats, things like that, from an unknown chemical of some kind that was in the air,” he said.

At the time of the exposure, all of the students were brought to the nurses office and evaluated by paramedics, though none needed to be transported to a local hospital.

Prison officials admitted that it was the first time tear gas used in an exercise had drifted outside of the prison boundaries, and took action to “effectively prevent the incident from happening in the future.”

However, the complaint states that prison officials failed to recognize the weather conditions that played a role in the children being exposed.

The state faces counts of negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and general and special damages for battery.

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