Muncie, IN – By SETH SLABAUGH, The Star Press – A neighbor who helped pull three victims of carbon monoxide poisoning from their home Saturday night said “it was like walking into a brick wall when we first entered the home.

“The high level of CO took our breath away,” Lucas Howard said on Monday. He said rescuers feared for the victims’ lives when they found them unconscious in the house. “The CO was beginning to make us slightly dizzy and confused as well.”

In light of this and other recent CO poisonings, Howard said he believed more public awareness of the problem was needed.

Howard took part Saturday night in the rescue of Janice West, 53, her husband, William Ray West, 50, and their granddaughter, Ashley Barnes, 18 months, from the couple’s home at 2209 S. Waldemere Ave.

All three victims were flown by helicopter to hospitals in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. The child was later sent home. Her grandparents remain hospitalized, Janice West in stable condition and out of the intensive care unit, William West in critical condition in the intensive care unit.

Muncie police determined that Brian Fisher – the boyfriend of Janel Corn, who is Janice West’s daughter – hooked up a portable, electric generator in the basement of the Wests’ home around 7:30 p.m.

Generators should be used only in open air where there is adequate ventilation. Generator exhaust gases contain deadly carbon monoxide gas.

The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.

As CO levels increase above 70 parts per million, symptoms such as headache and fatigue become more noticeable, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and as levels increase above 150 ppm to 200 ppm, disorientation, unconsciousness and death are possible.

The highest reading detected by city firefighters inside 2209 S. Waldemere, after some fresh air had been introduced to the house, was 411 ppm, said fire Capt. Robert Lucas.

“When we came out we were coughing and gagging almost,” Lucas said.

About an hour later, firefighters detected CO levels of 531 ppm in the garage of the home of Randall Winchester, 52, 2601 S. Meeker Ave.

A generator had been running in the garage for several hours while Winchester and his wife, Linda, went out to eat. Winchester had just purchased the generator that day.

Winchester thought about leaving the garage’s pedestrian door open while the couple were gone, but was afraid someone might steal the generator.

After the couple returned home, Winchester went into the garage to add fuel to the generator and was overcome by the fumes, according to his wife.

“In an enclosed area like that, it’ll take you out real quick,” said fire Lt. Bill Lucas. “He was short of breath, red, sweating and vomiting. We put him on oxygen and called for EMS.”

Winchester was sent home after treatment at Ball Memorial Hospital’s emergency department.