Six Carmel residents hospitalized for carbon monoxide exposure


Six people were taken to the hospital after carbon monoxide filled an apartment complex on the northwest side of Carmel.  Firefighters were called late Wednesday to the Legacy Towns and Flats off River Road and 146th Street on the report of a sick person. 

When emergency crews arrived, the CO detectors they carry as part of their gear went off.

They found an SUV in a closed garage with the ignition on, and the gas tank empty. 

So they evacuated the building - 13 people total - from the seven units in the building.

All will be okay, but it could have been a different outcome. "We could have been here on 13 fatalities," said Carmel Fire Captain Kurt Weddington.

From that running car, CO seeped into the building.  Every apartment unit had elevated levels of CO.

Weddington said CO "mixes with air and is pulled throughout building through cracks and vents and the natural ventilation system.  We encountered levels from 200 to almost a thousand parts per million."

Fire officials said ten minutes of exposure to 1000 parts per million of CO could be fatal.

Seven other residents who were not taken away by ambulance were evacuated to the Legacy clubhouse, checked for CO poisoning, and declined further medical attention. They have since returned to their apartments.

Dave Hoffman was one of those seven. "I got home about 11:00 p.m. and smelled something in my closet that didn't smell right," he said. "I didn't think anything of it, then woke up to the sound of the fire alarm at Midnight.  I thought it a false alarm.  Next thing I know, there was a fireman barging in my apartment." 

Another resident, Jason Snow, was able to get out with his dog. "It's lucky we got out and the people who called 911 called 911. It's very scary." 

The apartment building is all-electric, so CO detectors aren't something many here would have thought about.

Weddington said they are waiting for the SUV's owner to be released from the hospital to determine why it was left running.

More from Carmel Fire Department:

"The successful conclusion of this incident proves the importance of having a well-trained and properly equipped crew of first responders. I am very pleased with the fact that we are able to provide this high quality level of service in the Carmel community," said Mayor Jim Brainard.

On November 8, 2013 the CO monitoring device, called Protégé, was activated and clipped to all EMS bags taken on emergency runs. Protégé's were purchased as an additional means of protection for the fire crews when unknowingly entering an area that may pose an immediate dangerous to life or health. Once activated, they have a life time of 2 years and need no further attention. The device is set to alarm at 35 ppm.

"We are very pleased that our new CO detectors performed wonderfully and allowed our crews to quickly and accurately assess the situation and take immediate action to prevent loss of life," said Carmel Fire Marshall Bruce Knott.

Even if your home or apartment has all electric appliances, if it has an attached garage, as was the case in this instance, CO detectors should be installed for safety.

The Carmel Fire Department would like for this to serve as a reminder to change and test the batteries in our carbon monoxide detectors. CO detectors can be purchased at most home improvement stores and are strongly recommended when you have gas appliances or an attached garage. The Carmel Fire Department prefers a digital version of these devices because specific CO levels are indicated. This message is simple and the habit can be lifesaving.