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January 29, 2012

Carbon monoxide nearly kills family of 3 in NY

The Buffalo News

GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. — A Grand Island family came perilously close to perishing early Friday morning from breathing "extremely high" carbon monoxide levels in their home, authorities said.

One of the adults managed to wake up and call an acquaintance in Williamsville, who then contacted the Grand Island Fire Company to report "three people in distress," authorities said.

When Grand Island volunteer firefighters arrived at 20 River Oaks Drive, they repeatedly knocked on the front door of the home and finally a disoriented woman answered at about 2:42 a.m., a fire official said.

Two women and a 13-month-old boy were taken to Mount St. Mary's Hospital in Lewiston for treatment in a hyperbaric chamber to replenish their depleted oxygen levels. They were listed in satisfactory condition.

But it was a close call.

Authorities said they do not believe there was a working carbon monoxide detector in the home. A National Fuel spokesperson said it appeared that the incident involved natural gas, which was shut off after firefighters ventilated the home.

"We checked for carbon monoxide and an initial determination found 300 parts per million, which is a very dangerous level," Grand Island Fire Department spokesman Ray Pauley said. "If we hadn't gotten notification in time, we would most likely have had three fatalities."

As a result, Surya Yadavi, 36; Chaadana Koorella, 29, and the infant were removed from the home and placed in a fire rescue vehicle, where they received life-support treatment from volunteer firefighter medics.

The family members, who were all conscious but remained disoriented, were then transported by Twin City Ambulance to Mount St. Mary's.

"My understanding is they were to be treated in a hyperbaric chamber for oxygen deprivation," Pauley said.

Before an investigation into how the buildup of gas occurred, the residents will have to contact the utility to request resumption of gas service, National Fuel spokesperson Karen Merkel said.

"National Fuel turned the gas off, and the situation was made safe. Once the gas is back on, we can investigate," she said. "The CO levels were extremely high."

Pauley pointed out that Amanda's Law, enacted in February 2010 in response to the 2009 carbon monoxide death of West Seneca teenager Amanda Hansen, requires that all residential dwellings have CO detectors.

Pauley said it is important that residents make sure their detectors are properly functioning: "If you're in doubt, contact your local fire department, and they'll come out and check them for you."

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