Eugina O’Neal and her family were in their Southside apartment near death when the fire department arrived to the call of a gas leak Monday.
But it wasn’t the natural gas that nearly killed her family. It was carbon monoxide.
“I just feel grateful to be alive. I just thank God that me and my kids made it out of there safe,” said O’Neal in a phone interview from her bed at Baptist Hospital. “It felt like I could not move, and when I tried to get up to my son Ricky, I fell, but I was able to keep calling his name. He got up and got downstairs. He collapsed down there also and was able to pull himself forward, get back upstairs to my cell phone and call 911.”
In the 911 call made by O’Neal’s 13-year-old son Ricky, he appears somewhat confused as a result of the effects of the toxic gas. The call reads as follows:
Dispatcher: What is your phone number?
Caller: Mom, what is the phone number? Man, I don’t know, man. Me and my family can’t make it up. We just keep falling back. We got babies in the house and the babies keep crying for no reason.
The dispatcher keeps asking questions, at times sounding demanding, but rescuers said he was doing it to try and bring Ricky around.
Dispatcher: Is everybody conscious?
Caller: I don’t know. Everybody keeps falling down.
Dispatcher: Listen to me. How old are you?
Caller: 13 years old.
Dispatcher: I don’t need your attitude. I am trying to help you, OK? Is everybody conscious?
Caller: I don’t know, man.
The fire department said it got a call that the meter at the apartment complex was leaking, but after firefighters investigated, they found it was a malfunction of gas appliances in one of the apartments.
Their readings were showing carbon monoxide was 20 times higher than the acceptable level. As a result, nine children and three adults were taken to local hospitals, while many of them were released not long after they arrived.
O’Neal said she thought she was dead.
“I could hear and kind of like talk, but I could not move,” she said. “I could hear my kids crying.”
Next door, Latasha Williams was home with her children.
“I felt light-headed at first, and I got my baby and came outside,” said Williams, who had five other children there.
Williams said she feels very lucky that she and her children survived.
They returned home from the hospital Monday, and now Williams wants to know how the leak happened.
“No, they won’t tell us nothing, and they won’t tell us when the gas will be back on,” she said. “They won’t tell us nothing yet.”