SAN JOSE -- Pepper spray triggered by an unknown person was the source of the odor that sickened some guests and employees on the 18th floor of a Hilton hotel in downtown San Jose on Sunday, a hotel spokesman said.

The San Jose Fire Department and its hazardous materials team took an air sample of the area on the 18th floor and after an analysis concluded it was pepper spray, according to John Southwell, the hotel's general manager.

"They didn't know what it was until the test was made," Southwell said. "It was some form of pepper spray."

A hotel room housekeeper was on the 18th floor of the Hilton San Jose, 300 S. Almaden Blvd., shortly before 10:45 a.m. Sunday when she saw the back of a person leaving the hallway and then noticed the odor, Southwell said.

By the time the housekeeper figured out the person may have been responsible for the smell, the individual "was long gone," Southwell said.

"It was a random act, and poof, he was gone," Southwell said. "Who knows why?"

Soon, two or three hotel workers complained of throat irritation and watery eyes and four or five guests said they suffered similar symptoms and went downstairs to recover, Southwell said.

No one required medical treatment and fire officials gave the all clear at about 12:45 p.m., Southwell said.

Many of the hotel's guests were attending the Silicon Valley International Auto Show at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center two blocks northeast of the Hilton and so few people were around at the time of the spraying, Southwell said.


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San Jose fire Capt. Rob Brown said that 13 people who felt ill briefly due to the fumes came down to the hotel lobby for evaluation but none required treatment.

Firefighters asked guests who were in their rooms on the 18th floor to remain there and no one was allowed access to the floor until about two hours later, Brown said.

None of the firefighters felt any of the symptoms, Brown said.



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