By Yoav Gonen, Staten Island Advance
Quick response by firefighters may have saved the lives of three workers who were overcome by carbon monoxide at an elevator repair shop in Elm Park yesterday, after a forklift was left running with the garage door shut.
At least one of the victims — 63-year-old James Rein of West Brighton — was found unconscious near the doorway of United Elevator Group on Hooker Place by members of Engine Co. 157, Port Richmond, according to FDNY officials.
All three victims were treated at the signless green garage and removed to St. Vincent’s Hospital in West Brighton in stable condition.
They were released from the hospital within several hours, according to Rein. “Everybody’s fine,” he said later, from home.
“They were definitely aided by the quick response,” said an FDNY spokesman, who said it took four minutes for the first companies to arrive. “If you’re unconscious [from carbon monoxide], you could definitely die.”
Two families living adjacent to the shop also were evacuated from their homes for more than an hour.
Initially reported as a gas leak at United Elevator Group at 3:46 p.m., the closed-door use of what was believed to be a propane-powered hi-low forklift caused dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide, the Fire Department reported.
Firefighters from Ladder Cos. 79 and 80 — who responded along with Engine 157, Battalion 22, Division 8 and others — recorded carbon monoxide readings inside the shop of 800 parts per million (ppm).
“You can take a low level of exposure over a prolonged period of time,” said FDNY Battalion Chief John Calderone of the 22nd Battalion. “[But] 800 is a very high reading.”
The World Health Organization has set the reasonable limit of exposure to carbon monoxide at 87 ppm of air for a period no longer than 15 minutes.
The repair-shop workers had been exposed to levels nearly 10 times that amount for at least four minutes, suggesting the timely response may have averted a tragedy.
In October 2004, Albanian pop star Anita Bitri-Prapaniku, her mother and daughter were found dead in their South Beach home as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. Readings had detected carbon monoxide levels of 900 ppm in the house; maximum normal household levels are 9 ppm.