Lauderhill day care to remain closed pending Health Department inspection

21 children fall ill at Ave Marie Friends Preparatory School

LAUDERHILL, Fla. – A Lauderhill day care center will remain closed until the Florida Department of Health completes its investigation into why 21 children became ill Monday afternoon at the school.

Hazardous material crews and investigators were inside the Ave Marie Friends Preparatory School at 5801 NW 19th St. on Tuesday.

Lauderhill Fire Rescue Department Assistant Chief Jeff Levy said the students began exhibiting "varying degrees of vomiting, nausea and diarrhea."

Local 10 News was at the scene as some of the children were taken out of the school on stretchers and taken to hospitals, including Plantation General Hospital, Broward Health Medical Center and Broward Health Coral Springs. 

A teacher at the school told Local 10 News that the students ate bad turkey sandwiches.

"They were throwing up everywhere. One kid after another, after another, after another," one teacher said.

"What did you think to do?" Local 10 News reporter Michael Seiden asked.

"Get them up. Get them up because it was nap time," she said.

The large emergency response had parents searching frantically for their children. 

"The school called and police can't tell us what's going on, but I need to know what's going on right now," one woman said.

Levy said all the children who got sick ate lunch from the same caterer, which authorities identified Tuesday as Montoya Healthy Children Catering, which is based out of Hialeah.

Children who did not eat the lunch did not become sick.

Levy said there were 29 students at the school at the time, eight of whom were released to their parents.

Authorities said no adults experienced any symptoms.

Local 10 News reporter Michael Seiden went to the company's headquarters Tuesday and found bins of milk sitting outside in the heat.

The company's general manager told Seiden that the milk wasn't spoiled because it was frozen and they were getting ready to put it inside their freezer.

The manager also said that while the company hopes the children are OK, they have never had any issues with their food before.

"Our reaction is first of all we want to make sure that the kids are OK. That's most important. But the fact is that yeah, we service a lot of day cares and we've never had a problem," Javier Pena said.

Records show that Montoya Healthy Children Catering had 19 violations on its last inspection on Oct. 28, including keeping food at the wrong temperatures.

A warning was issued to the company and "corrective active" was taken.

Levy said the day care owner voluntarily closed the facility for decontamination and pending test results.

He said some of the children had to stay overnight at the hospitals to be treated for dehydration.

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