One dead from carbon dioxide leak in Pigeon Forge theater

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PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- One man has died after investigators said he inhaled too much carbon dioxide from a gas leak at the Smoky Mountain Opry Saturday night.

A representative with the Smoky Mountain Opry identified the employee as Josh Ellis and issued a statement about the loss.

"We are all heartbroken by the tragic loss of our friend and co-worker, Josh Ellis," said David Fee, President and CEO of Smoky Mountain Opry Theater. "Our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies go out to his family, friends and fellow employees during this difficult time. The professional and personal relationships we had with Josh have been a source of enrichment and enjoyment to all of us. He was a wonderful employee and we shall miss him greatly. For all of us this is devastating news. We ask for your prayers and support during this time."

Ellis was one of three people who were hospitalized. The other two have been released.

Pigeon Forge Fire Department Chief Tony Watson told Gray affiliate WVLT the three workers were taken to the hospital after they were discovered unconscious during a performance at the theater.

Chief Watson said they were called to the theater at around 10:30 p.m.

"Our squad unit, squad 26 is reporting multiple victims down," Chief Watson said.

A representative with the theater said that the individuals were technicians with the Opry. According to the representative, the gas leak was confined to a special technician room with limited access, separate from the audience.

According to the chief, about 900 guests watching the show were evacuated. No other injuries were reported.

"This is just an isolated incident," said Michael Headla, General Manager of the Smoky Mountain Opry.

At around 1 p.m. on Sunday, the fire department released information on the incident stating that they had responded to a call at the theater during an 8 p.m. show. Upon arrival they discovered a "high concentration" of carbon dioxide in an employee-only area of the building.

Officials with the theater said that the building was cleared and checked by the authorities and reopened. Shows will reportedly continue at the theater.

"We do want to see what we can do in the future to obviously prevent something like this from happening or occurring ever again," Headla said.

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