The 11 U.S. Army troops injured after consuming an “unknown substance” on Fort Bliss were determined to have been poisoned by antifreeze, officials announced on Friday.
Lt. Col. Allie Payne, spokesperson for the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss, told reporters on Friday that lab assessments revealed the 11 injured troops were poisoned by ethylene glycol – commonly known as antifreeze – after drinking what they believed to be an alcoholic beverage.
The 11 soldiers were identified only as one warrant officer, two noncommissioned officers, and eight enlisted members. All were assigned to the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 32d Army Air and Missile Defense Command, and on the final day of a 10-day routine training exercise at McGregor Range Complex.
Col. Shawna Scully, deputy commander for medical services at William Beaumont Army Medical Center (WBAMC), said two soldiers who were initially admitted in critical condition have improved, but remain seriously ill in the intensive care unit at WBAMC.
One soldier had initially arrived at the WBAMC emergency department with symptoms. A second soldier later showed symptoms and went to the emergency department, after which the unit commander required all remaining involved soldiers to be evaluated.
All 11 soldiers remain hospitalized at WBAMC. They have shown notable improvement after receiving antidote treatment in the first 24 hours, Scully said, adding that the antidote involved administering medication to bind the substance.
“In high enough doses, [ethylene glycol] can ultimately lead to organ failure,” Scully said, but noted most mild poisoning have no permanent effects.
An investigation was launched immediately and is still under way.
Maj. Gen. Sean C. Bernabe, senior mission commander of 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss said, “We took immediate action to treat everyone involved with the best medical care available. Our Leaders are engaged at every level to provide guidance, information, and care for their teammates. Our commitment to our Soldiers and Families remains our number one priority as we work to understand what occurred Jan. 28.”
Fort Bliss first announced the 11 troops were injured in a statement late Thursday, which had said they were injured after “ingesting an unknown substance during a field training exercise.” Two of the 11 troops were listed in critical condition.
Fort Bliss, near El Paso, Texas, is the home of the 1st Armored Division, whose subordinate units include four different armored brigade combat teams (ABCTs) – the 1st ABCT “Ready First,” the 2nd ABCT “Iron Brigade,” 3rd ABCT “Bulldog Brigade” and 4th ABCT “Highlanders.” Other units under the 1st Armored Division include the 1st Armored Division Artillery “Iron Steel,” The Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division “Iron Eagle,” 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade “Muleskinner” and the division headquarters battalion “Gladiator.”
Fort Bliss has seen a number of soldier deaths this month.
On New Year’s Eve, Pfc. Asia M. Graham, 19, was found dead in her barracks room.
Staff Sgt. John D.S. Bailey, 27, died in his home on Forth Bliss on Jan. 14.
Sgt. 1st Class Dejaun K. Frazier, 43, died in a motorcycle crash on Jan. 16.
Spc. Kenmaj D. Graham, 21, was traveling on foot on the East Side of El Paso on the morning of Jan. 17 when he was fatally struck by an oncoming vehicle.
Another Fort Bliss soldier, Pvt. Richard Halliday, 21, has been missing for about six months. Halliday was last seen on July 23 of 2020 and was reportedly leaving his barracks room. Fort Bliss officials reported him missing the following day after he failed to report for duty.