Eight Howard Street residents were rushed to Phelps Memorial Hospital and Westchester Medical Center last night after being exposed to carbon monoxide, according to Sleepy Hollow Police and the Sleepy Hollow Fire Department.
The incident was reported at about 10 p.m. Sunday. At that time, police received a 911 call from Phelps Hospital reporting that three individuals from a Howard Street residence, a sick adult with another unconscious adult and an unconscious child, had come to the emergency room showing symptoms consistent with carbon monoxide poisoning. The hospital notified police that the home they had come from had not been evacuated.
“They said there were probably more people in the residence,” Sleepy Hollow Police Lt. Frank Hrotko said. “The county dispatched the medic and the Sleepy Hollow Fire Department to respond.”
When the fire department arrived on the scene, they found that another five individuals were still in the home and showing signs of carbon monoxide exposure.
“We had five more showing signs or complaining of symptoms to the Sleepy Hollow Ambulance Corps,” Sleepy Hollow Fire Chief John Korzelius said. “We evacuated the rest of the building and took out the windows and vented the place.”
In total, eight people in the home were exposed to carbon monoxide. At least three young children, one less than a year old, were among those exposed to the fumes. The condition of the poisoned individuals has not been released at this time.
A spokesperson for Phelps Memorial Hospital said that all of the family members had been transferred from their hospital. Korzelius said the most serious cases were transferred to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx for hyperbaric treatment. The rest remained at Westchester Medical Center.
The Sleepy Hollow Fire Department was able to narrow down the cause of the poisoning to a charcoal grill that was lit in the basement of the home.
Korzelius said that preliminary investigations revealed that a family had brought in the grill after cooking to stay warm. Police said the incident would likely be investigated by the village’s building department to ascertain if there was any illegal crowding in the home.
Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that is colorless and odorless. It is usually caused by combustion in an oxygen-deprived environment. Breathing in carbon monoxide can cause headaches, disorientation and death if exposure is prolonged.
Hrotko noted that the end of fall was usually the time when carbon monoxide problems start to crop up across the nation due to the changing temperatures.
“Make sure to have your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms checked,” he said. “This happens a lot more in the winter time, but it is usually from a furnace, not a barbeque grill.”
Korzelius said that he could not recall a carbon monoxide incident of this size in the village.
He also warned that bringing in a grill is probably the most dangerous thing a person can do in a confined space. He advised people to use common sense, and make sure their heat is working properly.
“If you don’t have heat, definitely don’t bring in any grills. If you’re a renter without heat, call your landlord and if they don’t get back to you, call the police,” he said. “People have a right to have heat. Don’t take a chance like this. These people were very fortunate they didn’t die or cause a fire.