At least 40 students at Waipahu Elementary School suffered food poisoning symptoms on Tuesday, according to Department of Education officials.
Firefighters carried the sick children one by one -- too weak to walk on their own to a city bus waiting to transport them to a hospital. Worried parents flocked to the school upon hearing the news.
"It was pretty hectic. At the same time, we tried to calm them down and make sure we're assessing the situation," said Waipahu Elementary School Principal Gary Chun.
"The kids were just not feeling well. Not comprehensive. Just throwing up," said parent Nikki Delapena.
School officials say they noticed dozens of children showing signs of sickness a couple of hours after students ate a spaghetti with meat sauce meal.
First-grader Kaimi Peters-Clarke was one of the lucky ones who didn't get sick.
"I didn't eat nothing," said Peters-Clarke. When asked what he saw, he said, "Throwing up. Throwing up."
His mother tells us Kaimi doesn't like the school's spaghetti and never eats it. But, other parents and children weren't so lucky.
Of the 40 children who got sick, 25 had to be rushed to the hospital, according to Emergency Medical Services officials.
Eight children were initially sent to Wahiawa General Hospital via two ambulances. Six children were then sent to Pali Momi Medical Center. Eleven more children were taken to Kaiser Permanente on a city bus.
"We're starting IVs on them, getting them hydrated," said EMS spokeswoman Shayne Enright. "We're doing treatment already inside the ambulance."
Chun told KITV one cook and baker prepared the lunch in the morning for about 1,000 students. Most of the children affected were first-graders who started eating the meal at 10:30 a.m.
Chun could not provide the name of the vendor that supplies the food.
"We're doing the best we can and are still assessing the situation and continuing to investigate," said Chun.
The Hawaii State Departments of Education and Health are conducting an investigation to determine what caused the students to become ill just after lunch.
DOE officials say that symptoms started showing up at around 1:15 p.m. Affected students were treated on campus by EMS personnel and transported to area hospitals for further evaluation.
The DOE will be providing temperature logs and a sample lunch to DOH officials for analysis. Officials will also investigate outside factors such as any food students and staff may have brought to the campus, or whether anyone came to school sick. Nearly 1,150 students attend Waipahu Elementary.
Meals served at Hawaii's public schools adhere to strict state and federal food safety guidelines, according to DOE officials.
"The safety and wellbeing of our students are paramount," said School Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. "Our food services branch is collaborating with state health officials to pinpoint the source of today's outbreak. We thank parents for their patience and we wish all students a speedy recovery."
Parents who observe their child showing symptoms of being sick are asked to contact his or her doctor and notify the school.