Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

November 10, 2012

CLOSE CALL

Town of Lockport family has brush with carbon monoxide

BY BILL WOLCOTT
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A Lincoln Avenue family barely escaped a tragedy on Election Day when carbon monoxide filled their home with a fatal dose.

First responders said, “I can’t believe you’re still alive,” according to homeowner Gary Jones. “All of us should have been dead.”

Gary and LuAnn Jones were able to get out of the house at 7238 Lincoln Ave. with their 11-year-old daughter, Brooke. Mom was able to return to work at Shamus Restaurant and Brooke returned to DeSales Catholic School. Dad was still ill on Friday.

“If it wasn’t for Brooke we would all have been dead,” Gary said.

Brooke, a sixth-grader at DeSales, woke up before 6 a.m. Tuesday and complained of being sick. LuAnn went down stairs to get her daughter some medicine. The girl collapsed on the floor.

“What a nightmare that is to see your child crash to the floor like that,” the mother said.

“I yelled for Gary. ‘Something’s wrong with Brooke!’ He stumbled out of the bedroom, got to the top of the stairs and fell down. He just collapsed, fell on foyer, laying there and I was freaking out,” LuAnn said. 

They opened the doors and got outside where LuAnn called 911. Revived, Brooke feared for her pet and went inside to get Cocoa out of her cage.

“I don’t want my dog to die,” Brooke thought. 

Gary recalled, “I was kind of wobbly. My legs couldn’t move and I collapsed. I fell down the rest of the stairs. My wife was still coherent. I crawled outside.”

South Lockport Fire Co. volunteers, the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office and NYSEG arrived to the split-level home in minutes. They concentrated on Brooke who was vomiting.

The family was rushed to Eastern Niagara Hospital - Lockport where Gary registered 10.5 carbone monoxide in his system and Brooke registered 8. Father and daughter were given oxygen, Gary for six hours and Brooke for four hours. Mom, a casual smoker, was not affected as much.

LuAnn recounted, she had a headache the night before and there was an annoying smell. Gary looked around and suspected a mouse got caught in the duct. He would look at it in the morning.

“I couln’t really sleep,” LuAnn said. “I tossed and turned, when Brooke got me up, I wasn’t really asleep ... I thought she had a severe flu going on and I didn’t feel 100 percent myself.”

When Gary collapsed, LuAnn suspected a gas leak and knew the family had to get outside. They opened the front door and as soon as some air got in, it helped a little bit. 

According to NYSEG report, the carbon monoxide 

registered 440 parts per million at the door and over 900 parts per million in the basement. A recording of 200 ppm can be fatal.

“I woke up with a headache and I asked my mom if she could get me some medicine so we walked down the stairs,” Brooke said. “She was just getting the medicine when I fell to the ground.” 

NYSEG found that the exhaust from the boiler was plugged. Carbon monoxide is odorless and LuAnn, who had a nagging headache, likely smelled the exhaust.

Gary had checked the carbon monoxide alarm a few weeks earlier and found it was “shot.” He bought a new one, but did not install it immediately.

“He never got a chance to put it up,” LuAnn said. “This was such a life lesson. Gary’s always been about changing lights and batteries, the smoke alarm. For some reason, this just went by the wayside. We are so lucky we’re not dead.”

The Olsons installed a new boiler, at a cost of $5,600 — with a $1,000 rebate.

“If we can just alert people. That’s all we really want,” LuAnn said. “You think it’s not going to happen to you and it does. This is the stuff you read about, but it never happens to you.”

Is Brooke a hero?

“She’s had aches before. This time she woke me up and alerted us to everything,” mom said. “I think she’s so brave and courageous — not hero in the true sense of a hero —she was a hero to us.”

Clayton Ellis, the manager of NYSEG Corporate Communications, said, “Get all heating equipment checked by a professional. You don’t know it’s there until your sick.”

CARBON MONOXIDE ALERT Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that kills without warning. It claims the lives of hundreds of people every year and makes thousands more ill. Many household items including gas- and oil-burning furnaces, portable generators and charcoal grills produce this poison gas. Following these important steps can keep your family safe. CO DETECTORS • Install battery-operated or battery back-up CO detectors near every sleeping area in your home • Check CO detectors regularly to be sure they are functioning properly OIL & GAS FURNACES • Have your furnace inspected every year, as well as flus and vents

Contact reporter Bill Wolcott at 439-9222, ext. 6246.