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BREAKING: LaBelle property where deputies got sick given the "all clear"

CLICK BELOW to see the latest breaking update that aired during FOX 4 News at 6:00 on Friday.
Posted at 7:44 PM, Jun 19, 2024

UPDATE: 6:05 PM Friday, June 21st

The Hendry County Sheriff's Office has been given the "all clear" from local and federal authorities following extensive testing of the site.

It's still unclear what caused the deputies to become sick. However, detectives are still going to be on the scene processing the stolen property — the original crime.

Until that part of the investigation is done, the property will remain an active crime scene.

UPDATE: 4:30 PM Friday, June 21st

For a third day, investigators searched the property on North Industrial Loop, trying to figure out what mysterious substance got 14 people sick.

Fox 4 found property records and tracked down the people who own the land.

They're in Miami, and tell Fox 4's Ella Rhoades they haven't heard from investigators. The owner's wife says they rent spaces to people to store their vehicles and other large equipment.

"My husband doesn't know exactly what is happening. He rents the property," the owner's wife said. "The information we know is what's being reported on the news. No one has contacted him about anything."

The owner's wife said they knew the suspect in custody and told Fox 4 he rents a parking space from them.

Hendry County Sheriff's Office Captain Susan Harrelle says the federal agencies involved have advanced technology to test the area.

Labelle potential hazmat site day 3
A look at the scene in LaBelle Friday, as local and federal agencies continued to work together to determine the unknown substance that affected the health of more than a dozen law enforcement personnel 2 days prior, during a stolen vehicle investigation at the property.

"We don't know what we are dealing with. We just don't know, and we are not trying to create any fear in the community," she explained. "We do not think it's affecting the community whatsoever. Again, outside of the perimeter there are no effects."

Harrelle says first responders not only felt nauseous and dizzy, but they had difficulty breathing and had trouble with their memory.

Zoe Bayless and Hunter Robinson live in LaBelle, and say they want answers to this mystery.

"It's weird because what if, we don't know any information. They're not telling us anything and they're keeping it under wraps," Bayless said. "But, what if it's serious, and we need to like evacuate or something and we just don't know."

Again, the sheriff's office says there's no threat to the public outside of the site in question.

UPDATE: 3:43 PM Friday, June 21st

Federal agencies have tested the air for chemicals and hazardous liquids, but the Hendry County Sheriff's Office says everything has come back negative in all areas.

The FBI's Weapons of Mass Destruction unit is now involved in the investigation, along with other federal agencies.

"At this point, I am concerned with the safety of our personnel who will be entering this scene," said Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden. "We do not believe the public is in danger. Members outside the premises are not experiencing symptoms of any kind; we believe that whatever has created this illness is contained within the property.”

Because of the level of concern, the sheriff requested the following agencies to help with the investigation:

  • Army National Guard to conduct testing for chemicals, air quality etc.
  • ATF Bomb Technician (supporting other agencies while search by Federal agencies continue)
  • FBI - Weapons of Mass Destruction (precautionary measures, assisting with technology to measure the air quality)
  • FBI Evidence Collection (Collecting chemicals and/or property needed to preserve for evidentiary value or processing)
  • Department of Environmental Protection (ground/soil contamination testing)
  • Lee County Unified Hazmat Team

There are several local agencies also assisting.
"We are continuing to cover every square foot of this ground to ensure the public and my deputies are not at risk," Whidden said.

UPDATE: 2:53P Thursday, June 20th

If you were streaming FOX 4 News at 6:00 on Thursday, you saw that we learned precisely which vehicle is at the center of a mysterious hazmat investigation in LaBelle.

The case started Wednesday night, the culmination of a stolen vehicle call, that led investigators to a junk yard, where they found a stolen motorhome and man unconscious inside.

As of Thursday afternoon, deputies confirmed that the motorhome highlighted in this new daytime drone video recorded by FOX 4's Anvar Ruziev is the vehicle they're focused on, and where they found their suspect, Juan Gonzalez Diaz.

WATCH: See new daytime drone video of the motor home at the center of the case.

NEW VIDEO: Daytime drone video shows motorhome at center of haz-mat case

As of Thursday afternoon, 14 law enforcement personnel and the suspect had been hospitalized and released following exposure to the unknown contaminant connected to the case. That includes one hazmat team member who became sick this afternoon.

UPDATE: 2:53P Thursday, June 20th

A suspect has now been identified as 45-year-old, Juan Gonzalez Diaz, of Miami.

A suspect has been identified by HCSO.jpeg

The Hendry County Sheriff's Office says he has been medically cleared and is being held in the Hendry County Jail, without bond, on an outstanding federal warrant for probation violation.

Investigators have resumed their search of 310 N. Industrial Loop.

At 1:30PM, hazmat team members entered the suspect's mobile home and while processing the scene became ill.

The Hendry County Sheriff's Office says all first responders have been medically cleared.

Meantime, in the investigation, detectives are searching for stolen vehicles, weapons, tools, narcotics and chemicals.

Traffic updates:

The entry to North Industrial Loop is closed to incoming/thru traffic.

South Industrial Loop is open to local traffic only and is not for thru traffic.

Agencies on scene:

  • Department of Environment Protection
  • Fort Myers Fire Department Hazardous Materials Unit
  • HCSO Road Patrol Unit, Fire and EMS
  • Hendry County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigation Division
  • Homeland Security

UPDATE: 10:30AM Thursday, June 20

Every first responder who had to go to the hospital has been released, according to the Hendry County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators say they're waiting on a judge to sign off on search warrants so they can search the entire property today.

Investigators say they're in the process of testing clothing from people who were exposed, to try to identify the substance that made them sick.

North Industrial Loop is still closed off.

UPDATE: 11:30PM Wednesday, June 19

More than 20 law enforcement personnel were sickened by a mystery affliction while working a stolen vehicle call near the airport in LaBelle.

The investigation that followed brought out multiple law enforcement agencies, including U.S. Homeland Security and the DEA. All exposed officers reported symptoms of nausea and dizziness.

WATCH: Only FOX 4 got access to fly a drone with deputies over the scene Wednesday night.

ONLY ON FOX 4: Drone video of Hazmat scene in LaBelle that sickened 20 people

According to the Hendry County Sheriff's Office, around 930am Wednesday, law enforcement received a stolen vehicle call. Working that case led them to 310 North Industrial Loop. There they found a man lying inside, what would turn out to be, a stolen motor home.

WATCH: Here's a second clip of that drone video showing the scene from different angles

ONLY ON FOX 4: Drone Video 2 of Hazmat scene in LaBelle

The sheriff's office says the man was alive, but as first responders intervened, multiple officers on scene became exposed to a mystery substance that brought on symptoms of nausea and dizziness. The 20 affected were taken to the hospital by ambulance. Several others reported effects but symptoms were not as severe.

Late Wednesday night, the mystery substance was still unknown. Captain Susan Harrelle with the Hendry County Sheriff's Office said it wasn't "a powder or an odor, but something was harming humans" at the scene.

WATCH: Photos show the haz-mat investigation in LaBelle

PHOTOS: Haz-mat investigation that followed a stolen vehicle call where officers became sick

Nearby residents were briefly evacuated. FOX 4 talked with one man who was glad law enforcement took swift action to help keep people safe.

The Hendry County Sheriff's Office said the man in the motor home was taken into custody as a suspect and was being questioned at length to determine what may have happened. Late Wednesday night, investigators said they were still working to connect with the owner of the property.


There is breaking news out of Hendry County, where a possible haz-mat situation has made both residents and law enforcement sick.

Shortly after 8:00pm, the Hendry County Sheriff's Office confirmed to FOX 4 that several people had been hospitalized, and several others had been affected by this concerning situation developing in LaBelle.

SEE the first pictures from the scene below.

FIRST PICTURES FROM SCENE: People sick from possible haz-mat in Labelle, Homeland Security responds

This scene is in the area of 310 North Industrial Loop in LaBelle. It's right next to the Labelle Airport, LaBelle Animal Control, and the Hendry/LaBelle Rodeo Arena.

The Sheriff's Office initially described the illness as being caused by a "suspicious element," with the main symptom being nausea.

Personnel from LaBelle Fire, LaBelle EMS, Fort Myers Haz-Mat Team, Clewiston Police Department, Homeland Security, Collier County Sheriffs Office and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency are all on scene working to determine what's going on.

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