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Carbon Monoxide Kills 1, Injures 3 Paramedics

Carbon Monoxide Kills 1, Injures 3 Paramedics

(Stock Photo)

South Florida Sun-Sentinel via YellowBrix

June 20, 2010

One person died and six more were injured from a carbon monoxide poisoning Saturday morning at a home west of Boca Raton where a car in the attached garage was left running for hours.

The injured include three paramedics.

According to Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue, an elderly couple woke up around 3:30 a.m. feeling ill and called their health care work. The caretaker came over to their home in the 4800 block of Bocaire Boulevard and checked the two cars in the garage, but concluded they were off. By 8:30 a.m., the health care worker’s replacement arrived.

About an hour later, everyone was feeling nauseous and called fire-rescue. The paramedics were in the home about 10 minutes before they too fell ill to the scentless, odorless gas. They identified it as carbon monoxide sickness and rushed everyone from the home.

“The levels were high,” fire-rescue spokesman Capt. Don DeLucia said. “Just walking into it they started getting sick.”

The couple — identified as Hyman Hal Portnoy, 89, and his wife, Elaine Sommer-Portnoy, 87 — were taken to Delray Medical Center. Hyman Hal Portnoy died there and Elaine is in critical condition, officials said. The health care workers and paramedics were taken to West Boca Medical Center and are expected to recover.

The carbon monoxide came from a Lincoln in the two-car garage that was left running, DeLucia said. It was found with the battery dead and the gas tank empty. It’s unclear how long the car was running.

“If it was a full tank, it could have taken [up to] 18 hours,” DeLucia said. He said when the caretaker checked the garage at 3:30 a.m., the tank was probably empty. That’s why nothing seemed wrong, he said.

There was no carbon monoxide detector in the house.

“If there was a carbon monoxide detector, we wouldn’t have had the incident we had,” DeLucia said. “They’re not expensive and are as valuable as a smoke detector.”

Carbon monoxide is an invisible gas that is highly poisonous, according to the county Health Department. Depending on the level of exposure, it can cause fatigue, weakness, chest pains for those with heart disease, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, headaches, confusion, lack of coordination, impaired vision, loss of consciousness, and death.

Oxygen in the blood is replaced with the poison. The body suffocates and is sent into cardiac arrest, DeLucia said.

The Bocaire Country Club is a community of 236 homes situated on 300 acres of landscapes, lakes and fairways. Neighbor Bunny Kuhn said she saw the rush of ambulances Saturday morning and was shocked to see the paramedics become patients.

“Even the firemen had to go to the hospital, it was terrible,” she said.

Kuhn’s husband, Larry, said Portnoys were both previously married but had spouses who passed away. They met about 14 years ago in the Bocaire community and hit it off.

“They were a very happy couple, a very compatible couple,” Larry Kuhn said. “I have nothing but good I can say about them.”

Staff Researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.