15 overcome by extremely high levels of carbon monoxide - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

15 overcome by extremely high levels of carbon monoxide

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BETHESDA, Md. - Fifteen people were overcome by carbon monoxide fumes in a Bethesda, Md. apartment building, Saturday.  A majority of them were taken to area hospitals, but rescue officials believe all will survive.

At first, it was a 9-1-1 call about sick person at the Middlebrook apartment building on Battery Lane in Bethesda.  A maintenance worker had made  his way outside at the back of the building.  He was then was joined by a second sick man.  

The Bethesda Chevy Chase Rescue Squad is literally across the street from the apartment building.  The very first responders immediately suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.   Firefighters with breathing apparatus immediately evacuated the building.

"Ah, basically the first thing I heard was knocking at my door -- actually, pounding at my door," recalled Rob Marcarelli, a resident.  "A firefighter was out there pounding on all the doors up on the eighth floor, telling us all ot evacuate as soon as possible."  

As residents spilled out, emergency personnel realized that 15 people were disoriented, and needed oxygen immediately.

When Macarelli reached the lawn outside, he was shocked by what what is front of him:  "Ah, I saw people -- they looked like, you know, close to fainting I guess.  I mean, they didn't look a hundred percent there."  

Two were taken to local hospitals by helicopter.  The rest were transported by ambulances.

Firefighters were told by maintenance workers that the building's emergency generator had started up, and was running for an unknown length of time.  The maintenance workers had gone   downstairs to check on the generator when they were sickened by the odorless gas.

Carbon monoxide spread throughout the eleven-story building.  Assistant Chief Graham, of Montgomery County Fire / Rescue told reporters:  "We had levels from 200 to 800 parts per million in the building, depending on the different levels.  WHAT'S NORMAL?  Well, normal, we like it less than 35 [parts per million]."

A total of 15 people were transported to area hospitals, some, initially in serious condition.  All, however, are expected to recover.

Residents were kept out of the building for six-and-a-half hours.

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