Carbon Monoxide Kills Four, Injures 14 in New Jersey and Minnesota

Carbon Monoxide

New Jersey authorities have confirmed the deaths of two people from carbon monoxide poisoning. In addition to the two victims who lost their lives, twelve others were injured in the building, which had been converted from a factory into mixed-use commercial space. The accident in Passaic, N.J., follows on the heels of an earlier incident this week in Minnesota, in which a father and his daughter were killed after being poisoned by the deadly gas.

The mayor of Passaic, which is located approximately 15 miles to the west of New York, spoke at a news conference regarding the incident, which was reported at approximately 1:30 p.m. when police were dispatched after a 911 call came in. When authorities arrived at the three-story building, they discovered the two deceased victims on the second floor in one of several recording studios located in the building. Mayor Alex Blanco said the 12 surviving victims had attempted to leave the building, but had become disoriented and were having trouble breathing. They were transported to local hospitals and are being treated. As of Saturday night, an unknown number had been released.

In addition to responding police, fire departments, hazmat teams, a gas company and ambulances responded to the scene, with emergency personnel from neighboring towns helping in the effort to bring victims to hospitals. Blanco praised the team effort, saying that it was due to the fast response that more people were not killed by the gas. An investigation into what caused the carbon monoxide poisoning is underway. Passaic does not require that mixed-use commercial buildings install carbon monoxide detectors.

On Wednesday, a family of four inside of a recreational vehicle near Duluth, Minnesota, died after what investigators believe was a carbon monoxide leak caused by a generator. The father, Michael Mechley, 39, and his daughter, Charlene Mechley, 11, were dead on the scene. The fifth wheel camper in which they were staying had been parked beside a home in Rice Lake Township.

Two other Mechley children were on site and appeared to be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. Karley Mechley, 15, and Noah Mechley, 14, were taken to the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. Both children received treatment in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. As of Friday evening, Karley remained in critical condition. On Saturday, both Karley and Noah had been upgraded to stable condition and are expected to fully recover.

Minnesota law requires that every apartment and home in the state have working carbon monoxide detectors installed. State Fire Marshal Bruce West suggests having a detector on every floor of the home and located within 10 feet of a bedroom. It has not been determined whether or not the camper in which the family was living had a working carbon monoxide detector. Last year, 18 Minnesota deaths were caused by carbon monoxide. Nationwide, 430 deaths occurred from accidental exposure to lethal levels of carbon monoxide from 1999 to 2010.

Carbon monoxide has no taste, color or odor and is generated when carbon fuels used in appliances and engines combust. Symptoms of poisoning by the gas include confusion, nausea,vomiting, dizziness and headache. Exposure for a lengthy period of time can result in death or permanent brain damage. Deaths and poisonings due to carbon monoxide buildup increase during winter, when snow can build up and clog vents on dryers, fireplaces and furnaces, allowing carbon monoxide to build up inside of a home. Marshal West advises that homeowners keep all exterior vents clear of snow to prevent lethal levels of the deadly gas to invade their homes.

By Jennifer Pfalz

ABC News
New York Times

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