York, ME — The five people transported to area hospitals after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning on Christmas Eve were all home in time for the holiday.
York Village Fire Chief Chris Balentine said they and the fire marshal will return to 23A Witchtrot Road, the location of Maine Coast Builders on Monday, to conduct tests and do an inspection to find the source of the deadly gas that sickened employees.
Reached by phone, Jeff Jones, president of Maine Coast Builders, said all his employees were treated and went home several hours later on Thursday. Dec. 24. He declined to speak beyond that.
“Five people were transported,” said Balentine. “Two went to York Hospital, two to Portsmouth Regional Hospital and one to Wentworth-Douglass Hospital. The man who went to Wentworth-Douglass was transported first as he was semi-conscious.”
“They had the heat on, but the doors were open,” he said. “That was good for them but made it harder for us to trace it to the source. It is a new building with a new heating system. This is one of the most serious CO calls we have ever had. The building has been locked down and will remain so until after we finish our investigation.”
“The employees called for help,” said Balentine. ”I think there were about 7-10 people in the building and six or seven were feeling some effects. One person was unconscious when we arrived and another 1-2 were going down when we got there. This means there was a fairly high concentration of contamination in the building.”
“It’s a really good time to remind everyone that having a carbon monoxide detector in your home can save your life,” said Balentine. “A small amount can be tolerated for a short time. The cause is almost always an incomplete combustion problem. It can happen in homes and businesses, from furnaces that use oil, propane, or coal. I hope this hammers home the need to have one, to be safe. You can buy a CO detector in just about any hardware store, and they last a good 6-8 years.”
The average CO release is usually 50-100 ppm and is colorless and odorless. Balentine said a person in the building for several hours might experience a headache, general achiness, and nausea. The longer they stay, the worse the effects will be.
“You can see this when people warm up their car in a closed garage,” he said. “You have seen the data on people who end their lives this way. It can happen while people are sleeping at night. There is no stronger way I can stress the importance of having a CO detector, and maybe more than one depending on the size of the home or building.”