Carbon Monoxide Detectors Prevent Tragedy

OCEAN CITY – Potential tragedy was averted this week during a carbon monoxide (CO) gas leak at a new facility at an Ocean City church when a CO detector or detectors alerted those inside the noxious gas had reached dangerous levels.

Some time Monday morning, Ocean City Emergency Services received a report several individuals had been subjected to potential carbon monoxide poisoning at the Holy Savior Catholic Church on Coastal Highway at 17th Street. Crews responded and treated one individual exposed to the colorless, odorless gas at the scene, but none of the others potentially exposed required treatment.

According to Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company spokesman Steve Price, the carbon monoxide leak likely originated at a gas heater when a pilot went out. Price said carbon monoxide fumes seeped through an open window at the church’s new Father Connell Parish Center, where CO detectors activated and warned those inside about the potential danger.

“The detectors did their job and a potentially dangerous situation was avoided,” he said. “We got a report about several subjects in need of emergency services, and naturally, given our recent experience with CO, we responded quickly and treated just one individual at the scene.”

Price was referring to an incident in the summer of 2006 when two members of a family vacationing in the resort perished from CO poisoning at a Boardwalk motel when the deadly gas seeped into their first-floor room from a faulty water heater in the facility’s basement. In the wake of that tragedy, town officials passed legislation requiring the mandatory installation of CO detectors in new construction.

Ocean City Fire Marshal Sam Villani said this week’s incident should serve as a reminder to residents and visitors alike of the importance of CO detectors in their homes, businesses and other structures.

“They are so important, especially at this time of year when people might be turning on their heaters for the first time, or using other gas-powered equipment,” he said. “Now’s the time for people to make sure they have them. If you don’t have the detectors, get them, and if you do have them already, make sure they have batteries and are working correctly,”

Meanwhile, the $30 million lawsuit filed by the family of the victims who died in the June 2006 carbon monoxide tragedy continues to slog its way through the complex legal process with multiple defendants and several counter-suits filed. The suit filed in U.S. District Court last February, names as defendants the Bay Shore Development Corp., the owner of the Days Inn Hotel on 22nd Street in Ocean City where the tragedy occurred; Heat Transfer Products, Inc., the manufacturer of the faulty water heater deemed as the source of the CO leak; R.E. Michel Co. Inc., the Glen Burnie-based company that distributed the water heater; and All About Plumbing, the local company that purchased and installed the water heater at the Boardwalk hotel.

Just this week, one of the defendants in the case, All About Plumbing, Inc., which installed the allegedly faulty hot water heater in the basement of the Days Inn on 22nd Street, filed a third-party complaint against the Joyce Agency, Inc., a Virginia-based HVAC company. The third-party complaint alleges the Joyce Agency actively participated in the installation of the Munchkin water heater because an employee of the company instructed All About Plumbing employees on how to install it.

“All About Plumbing alleges its negligence, if any, would be passive and secondary, and the sole and proximate cause of the victims’ damages, if any, were the acts of the third-party defendant, the Joyce Agency, Inc.,” the complaint reads.