A faulty water heater flue pipe caused the carbon monoxide leak that killed a New York restaurant manager and sent more than two dozen people to hospitals, a fire official said Sunday.
Huntington Chief Fire Marshal Terence McNally said the fumes were circulated in the basement by the ventilation systems at a restaurant on Long Island. Restaurant manager Steven Nelson was found unresponsive in the basement on Saturday night and pronounced dead at a hospital.
Roger Berkowitz, president and CEO of the diner, said Nelson, 55, had worked for the restaurant for three years and had two sons.
“It’s a shock; he was a great guy; we consider ourselves a family,” Berkowitz said, adding that other employees were “traumatized.”
Berkowitz said the carbon monoxide leak was “a wakeup call for commercial businesses” and that monitors should be in all businesses.
Police were initially alerted after receiving a call about a woman who had fallen and hit her head in the basement. Rescue workers who arrived started to feel lightheaded and nauseated and suspected carbon monoxide.
The restaurant was evacuated and 27 people — all employees, police or ambulance workers — were treated at hospitals. The building was not required to have carbon monoxide detectors, and there were none, McNally said.
Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless and can lead to death by suffocation.