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Officers, Responders Hailed As Heroes In Carmel Carbon Monoxide Scare

Two women and a dog were saved by police when they were overcome by carbon monoxide fumes.
Two women and a dog were saved by police when they were overcome by carbon monoxide fumes. Photo Credit: Google Maps street view

Two Putnam County law enforcement officers and first responders are being hailed as heroes for their role in saving two women and a dog who were found unconscious by carbon monoxide poisoning in their Carmel home.

Town of Carmel Police Chief Michael Cazzari, Carmel Volunteer Fire Department Chief David DiRienzo, and Putnam County Sheriff Don Smith reported that two women, ages 61 and 89, were rescued on Monday after they were rendered unconscious by carbon monoxide poisoning.

As previously reported by Daily Voice, the events unfolded around noon when the 61-year-old woman sent text messages to her daughter, who was out of the area. As those messages became incoherent, the daughter became concerned and tried to telephone her mother. When her mother did not answer the phone, the daughter called a friend and asked her to check on the welfare of her mother and grandmother at the house, a single-family residence on North Gate Road, said Capt. William McNamara of the Putnam County Sheriff's Office.

The friend went to the house, where she heard the sound of a carbon monoxide alarm going off inside and could see the 89-year-old grandmother lying unconscious on the floor in a bedroom near the front door. The friend called 911 and reported the situation.

Within a few minutes, Carmel Police Officer James Terrazas, Carmel Fire Department Firefighter Joseph Fernandez, and Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Kristan arrived at the scene. Terrazas and Fernandez went into the house and pulled the grandmother from the front bedroom to the front door, as Deputy Kristan searched the house for more victims. The deputy found the 61-year-old woman unconscious in a back bedroom, and he and Terrazas carried her out of the house, McNamara said.

Carmel Fire Department Assistant Chief Robert Lipton, Jr., was one of the first responders on the scene. He assisted in getting the victims out of the house and led firefighters with breathing apparatuses into the house to ensure that no other victims were inside. Personnel from the Putnam County Bureau of Emergency Services, Brewster Volunteer Fire Department and Mahopac Volunteer Ambulance Corps also responded to the scene to assist.

The victims, who were still unconscious and unresponsive after being removed from the home, were rushed to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla by a Carmel Volunteer Ambulance Corps ambulance and an EMStar Paramedic Services ambulance. The women were admitted for treatment of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning and are expected to recover, McNamara said.

Terrazas and Kristan reported feeling light-headed after removing the victims from the house. They were administered oxygen by other first responders and did not require further treatment.

"The two women are very fortunate to be alive,” said Cazzari. “Had the woman not received the garbled texts or, even having received them, had she not acted swiftly on her concern by having the friend check on her mother and grandmother, the victims would have eventually succumbed to the poison gas,” he said.

Smith praised the actions of first responders. “They acted heroically, with disregard for their own safety, and thereby saved two lives,” said the Sheriff.

According to the Carmel Volunteer Fire Department, readings taken in the house indicated a concentration level of carbon monoxide gas in the air of 1,800 parts per million (ppm). According to some published government studies, human exposure to 1,200 ppm of carbon monoxide in the air for one hour can be fatal. The typical level of carbon monoxide in a home ranges from 3 to 6 ppm, according to official sources.

Officials believe that the high level of carbon monoxide gas in the home was caused by a faulty connection in an exhaust pipe leading from a propane gas burner used to heat the home. It appeared that the faulty connection in the pipe allowed the exhaust gases from the burner to be pumped inside the house, instead of being expelled outside. Inspectors from the Town of Carmel Building Department were called in to inspect the propane burner and exhaust system to ensure that the defect is corrected and made safe within code regulations, McNamara said.

Carmel Fire Chief DiRienzo explained that carbon monoxide gas is odorless and colorless, so it cannot be smelled or seen. He said that symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may be flu-like and may include a reddened face, dull headache, weakness. dizziness, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision and loss of consciousness.

The chief reminded residents to ensure that they have working carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in their homes. He also reminded everyone to be sure to regularly replace batteries in detectors and to check the expiration dates on the devices.

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