Carbon Monoxide killed a 13-year-old girl and sickened 41 other residents in a Perth Amboy, New Jersey, apartment building on the night of Dec. 4, police say.
Three relatives of the girl who died—a man in his 40s, a 21-year-old woman, and a 14-year-old girl—were hospitalized and remain in critical condition.
Perth Amboy Police Chief Roman McKeon told CBS News that when officers responded to a 911 call Thursday afternoon, “They entered the building and found people unconscious in the hallway, started CPR and got occupants out of the building.”
Police got a 911 call from the three-story building at 185 Fayette Street at around 4 p.m. on Dec 4, and were at the scene within 60 seconds, CBS News reported.
“We proceeded to evacuate the entire building which required them to kick in several doors,” Chief McKeon later told ABC7, “there’s 12 apartments in the building,”
Six unconscious people were pulled out of the multi-family dwelling and taken to the hospital.
Among those made ill by the fumes were 27 police officers.
“We immediately knew it was some kind of toxin that was taking everybody over. We knew that if we went in there we would put ourselves in danger,” Deputy Police Chief Lawrence Cattano told ABC7, “but that’s our jobs. That’s what we need to do to get the people out to be able to do what we need to do and attempt to save their lives.”
Due to the school’s temporary closure on account of the “Bomb Cyclone” snowstorm that hit the area on Jan. 4, almost all the building’s residents were at home in their apartments.
Maravalla Morales, a mother of five who lived in the building, told CBS News through an interpreter that she came out of her apartment and saw half a dozen of her neighbors unconscious on the hallway floor at around 4 p.m.
“All the police were knocking very hard on the doors, telling people they had to evacuate; had to get out; couldn’t be another minute there,” she said.
“I heard the doorbell ring and it was the police and they just went quickly upstairs,” building resident Joshua Coria told ABC7. “Then I heard screaming. There was a knock at the door and they told everybody to get out.”
Investigators say that a space heater in the primary victim’s apartment seems to have been the source of the lethal gas.
“When it’s cold, temperatures like this, people will use space heaters and alternative methods to stay warm if they’re heating systems aren’t working,” Perth Amboy Fire Chief Edward Mullen told CBS News. “[It’s] important to have carbon monoxide alarms in every apartment.”
The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s office has started a criminal investigation, because, while there were multiple carbon monoxide detectors in the building, none of them worked.
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