Carbon Monoxide Leak at Long Island Panera Restaurant Was Near Source of Fatal Poisoning in 2014
Several employees at a Panera Bread restaurant on Long Island, New York fell ill from a carbon monoxide leak caused by a faulty vent pipe in the building, which was part of the same mechanical system that killed the manager of an adjoining restaurant two years ago.
Local firefighters and police responded to an employee’s 911 call at the Panera Bread restaurant in Huntington Station, Long Island yesterday morning around 8:00 a.m., claiming that several employees were feeling sick while preparing the restaurant to open to the public.
When the Huntington Manor Fire Departments arrival the firefighters detected elevated levels of carbon monoxide (CO) in the building and sent seven of the Panera Bread employees to a local hospital to be treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.
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First responders reported that the sickened employees reported dull headaches, weakness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, dizziness, and difficulty breathing; all common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Two ambulances transported seven of the ten employees to Huntington Hospital.
Firefighters reported the carbon monoxide gas was entering the Panera Bread from the basement, which is shared between Panera, Cheesecake Factory and the former location of a Legal Sea Food restaurant, which is now under construction to be turned into a Del Frisco’s Grille.
Firefighters determined that the source of the leak was a faulty vent pipe from the former Legal Sea Foods restaurant, indicating that the gas was easily able to enter the Panera Bread.
The former Legal Sea Foods restaurant is the same location that experienced a carbon monoxide leak in February 2014 which led to the death of the restaurant manager, Steven Nelson, who was working in the basement office.
Nelson, 55, died of cardiac arrest related to carbon monoxide exposure, and 28 others were also injured as a result of that leak. Upon the firefighters arrival at the scene of that incident two years ago, CO levels were so high that the emergency personnel began feeling dizzy and nauseous themselves, requiring immediate medical treatment.
As a result of the Legal Seafoods carbon monoxide leak, New York legislators passed a law known as the “Steve Nelson law”, which requires carbon monoxide detectors in all New York restaurants. Reports are unclear on whether an alarm was in place at the Panera Bread at the time of this most recent incidents.
Huntington Town spokesman A.J. Carter told press that the town has already issued summons to both the general contractor, Shawmut Construction, and the subcontractor, Black Hawk Industries, for creating dangerous and unsafe conditions during the renovation process. Carter stated they face fines of up to several thousands of dollars.
Carbon monoxide gas leaks are a leading cause of fatal poisonings in the United States, due to the difficulty detecting the odorless, tasteless and colorless gas, which is extremely toxic and can quickly overcome an individual and result in permanent brain damage.
Individuals exposed to carbon monoxide typically experience symptoms similar to the flu, with feelings of nausea, headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, and shortness of breath often being the first sign of problems. However, prolonged exposure may result in mental confusion, vomiting, loss of muscle coordination or control, loss of consciousness, and ultimately death. For individuals who survive or sleep through prolonged exposure, they may be left with devastating brain damage from carbon monoxide that impacts them for the rest of their lives.
Long term injury from carbon monoxide poisoning is often preventable with the use of a working detector or alarm, which can provide advance notice to occupants of a building about the presence of the gas.
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