I would appreciate it if someone could send me a link or news paper article story of a tragic accident that occured as a result of a cracked heat exchanger in a residential furnace.
Thanks in advance
Carbon monoxide suspected in death
Published Online Jan 31, 2004
By MIKE MONSONand MARY SCHENK
News-Gazette Staff Writer
CHAMPAIGN - Autopsy results on a Champaign man who is believed to have died Thursday from carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty furnace won't be available for several weeks, the Champaign County coroner's office said Friday.
Champaign County Chief Deputy Coroner Bill Fabian said an autopsy on Otha Harmon, 41, was performed Friday but that toxicology results, which are needed to prove carbon monoxide poisoning, will take several weeks to complete.
"We're pretty certain that's what it is, but we have to wait for the toxicology results," he said.
Mr. Harmon was pronounced dead at 1:16 a.m. Thursday. He was overcome at a residence he had been renting at 613 E. Grove St., C, where he lived with his sister, Gloria Hollins, 35. She was hospitalized at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana for carbon monoxide poisoning as well, but she said Friday she is feeling better and expects to be released soon.
Hollins' 2-year-old son, Deandre Walker, also was home and was treated at the hospital before being released Thursday to the care of Hollins' sister.
Meanwhile, an investigation of the incident by the Champaign County sheriff's office continues and Hollins said Friday that she and her brother had complained to their landlord - Champaign City Council member J.W. Pirtle - about the furnace on more than one occasion.
Because of Pirtle's involvement, the Champaign Police Department asked the Champaign County sheriff's office to investigate Mr. Harmon's death.
Hollins said she and her brother had complained as recently as Tuesday to Pirtle about the furnace putting out black smoke.
"We had just paid the rent Tuesday, I think. He (Pirtle) came in the house and he said he was sending someone out to fix it," Hollins said Friday morning from Carle.
No one came to look at the furnace between the most recent complaint and early Thursday, when her brother was found dead, she said.
Coroner Roger Swaney said he felt confident the cause would be carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless and non-irritating gas that is a byproduct of the combustion produced by common household appliances, such as gas or oil furnaces, water heaters and clothes dryers. It is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. The gas binds with hemoglobin in the blood and prevents the blood from absorbing oxygen.
Hollins, who apparently passed out late Wednesday, said: "I feel great. I'm ready to go home."
But where she'll go is another question. Hollins said she and her brother had lived in the Grove Street house about 3 years.
Pirtle said Friday that he was advised by his attorney not to talk about the matter.
"That house doesn't legally belong to me. That house is not in my name," he said.
Pirtle was listed on a 1996 property record as the administrator of the estate of Henry Matthews.
A check of county assessment records shows that the house is listed in the name of Henry Matthews but that the tax bills are sent to Pirtle's Champaign residence. Hollins said Pirtle acts as their landlord.
Champaign property maintenance supervisor Mary Vita Rosmarino said Friday that there are records of complaints on the 613 E. Grove St. property but that The News-Gazette would be required to file a Freedom of Information Act request to get them. The News-Gazette filed the request Friday morning, but the records are not expected to be made available until Monday.
"Yes, we do have records. It's part of a police investigation. We're trying to focus in on responding to a subpoena. We're trying to pull everything together," Rosmarino said.
Sheriff Dan Walsh said Friday he had five officers working on the case and subpoenas, search warrants and interviews were being conducted.
"There's an investigation to see what happened and who was involved," Walsh said.
Police obtained search warrants for the furnace, which they suspect is the cause of Mr. Harmon's death.
Champaign firefighters were called to the house at 12:15 a.m. Thursday, according to Deputy Fire Chief Tim Wild.
"We had high readings on our carbon monoxide monitors," Wild said.
Coroner Roger Swaney said Mr. Harmon was found dead in his bedroom. Hollins and her 2-year-old son were in another bedroom. Hollins' 6-month-old pit bull dog was OK.
"I really don't know what happened. I woke up and the paramedics were there," Hollins said.
She said she believed that it was Mr. Harmon's son, her nephew, who called for help.
Hollins said her boyfriend, Leonard Mann, 46, was also living in the house, and became sick Wednesday.
"He had gone to the hospital because he kept passing out," she said. "His dad came and got him and took him to Covenant Wednesday night."
She said Mann was released from the hospital on Thursday.
Hollins said she didn't feel any ill effects on Wednesday and wasn't aware that her son or brother were either.
Hollins said she had complained "off and on for months" about the problems to Pirtle.
"I even went to the Tenant Union," she said.
Esther Patt, coordinator of the tenant union and an Urbana City Council member, said the tenant union typically doesn't keep written records of complaints and even if it had a formal complaint couldn't share it with the public out of privacy concerns. She said a tenant would be referred to the appropriate city department to file a complaint.
[Edited by bb on 05-29-2005 at 01:46 PM]