Posted: 9:17 am Wednesday, September 13th, 2017
By Eric "Hollywood" Davis STAR 94.5
Three people died of carbon-monoxide poisoning on Tuesday from a generator that was running inside their Orange County home after Hurricane Irma, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Four other members of the multigenerational family were taken to Florida Hospital in very serious condition.
Neighbors in the Kingswood Manor neighborhood near Lee Road — who were still without power Tuesday night — found out about the incident mostly through word of mouth, as helicopters and media arrived on the scene.
“My cable is out, so I sent my brother a text and he told me what happened,” resident Steve Whipple said. “I drive by them and wave at them all the time.”
Whipple was among a handful of neighbors gathered outside the home, talking about their damaged properties or the debris on the street. As night fell, the only lights in the area were coming from the Orange County patrol cars blocking Eggleston Avenue.
Maria Tuzzeo, who is the treasurer of the neighborhood’s board, said she knew the family well and had last seen them Monday, cooking on the street.
“It’s such a shame,” Tuzzeo said. “To see this, especially when children are involved… It’s a preventable thing.”
Tuzzeo said a family of five lived in the house, and three of them were minors.
“They used our park. The kids were out there all the time,” she said.
Hank Huynh has lived in the neighborhood for about 16 years and said the family often hosted barbecues and birthdays with live music in Spanish.
“They moved in just a couple of years ago; they’re good people,” said Huynh, who said he was shocked to find out about the accident despite warnings from authorities about using generators safely.
The Orange County deputy who responded to the home was overwhelmed by the fumes and had to step outside. He was treated at the scene.
Another dozen people in Brevard and Polk counties were poisoned Tuesday by carbon monoxide from generators running in their garages.
The incidents should serve as a reminder for all Floridians dealing with power outages in Hurricane Irma’s wake to keep generators outside, Titusville Fire Department Battalion Chief Greg Sutton said. Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and can be fatal when inhaled.
“All across the state, this power is going to be a big deal,” Sutton said. “This is something that’s going to be going on for a long time.”
Generators, which release carbon monoxide, should never be used indoors, in garages, or any place that is not well-ventilated, Orange County spokeswoman Doreen Overstreet added.
People who use generators should have carbon-monoxide detectors installed and keep the generators’ exhausts directed away from the home or any windows or doors.
In Brevard County, a Titusville family and their two dogs were treated for carbon-monoxide poisoning after leaving their generator on inside a closed garage after Hurricane Irma knocked out their power, and two other carbon-monoxide poisonings were reported in Polk County, officials said Tuesday.
In the Brevard incident, two adults and their six children were reporting symptoms of carbon-monoxide poisoning, including headaches and nausea, Sutton said.
The family had fallen asleep while their generator was left running in the garage. Sutton said it was lucky they woke up in time to call 911.
When the Fire Department and Brevard County Fire Rescue arrived, the family got out of the house and went to a hospital for treatment, Sutton said. Everyone was conscious.
The Fire Department aired out the home and used canine masks to give oxygen treatments to the family’s two dogs. They also have two pythons, but Sutton said the firefighters did not have the equipment or training to treat the snakes, which survived.
In Polk, four people were hospitalized, two in serious condition, after running generators in garages in two separate incidents — one near Lakeland and the other in Lake Alfred — a county spokesman said.
Sutton said people sometimes keep generators inside to prevent theft, but they should be kept at least 15 to 20 feet away from homes and buildings. He also said people should not cook with anything gas-fired inside.
Polk officials advise residents to install carbon-monoxide alarms; turn off generators and let them cool before refueling; and store generators in labeled containers intended for that purpose.