Investigators: Furnace venting problem lead to fatal CO leak - New York News

Investigators: Furnace venting problem lead to fatal CO leak

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Investigators now know what caused a deadly carbon monoxide leak that killed a girl and her grandmother in a Rogers Park apartment building Sunday afternoon.

On Monday, friends and supporters continued to come by the home where Rasheeda Akhter, 77, and her 18-year-old granddaughter Zanib Ahmed died Sunday afternoon after being overcome by carbon monoxide.

"This is like very tragic for the family, the girl was really nice girl, and we are still in shock," family friend Adnon Siddiqui says.

Investigators say it was a venting problem with the basement furnace that allowed the deadly gas to rise into the two apartments above. The building only had one carbon monoxide detector in the basement near the furnace and a window that was kept open.

"The detector being close to a window, an open window is a problem, you're creating a draft, and really a false sense," Assistant Deputy Fire Commissioner Mark Nielsen says.

It's a false sense of safety, when in fact the deadly gas may have been leaking for some time.

"CO poisoning is cumulative, it add up, so you get a little here, a little there, it keeps adding up," Nielsen says. "We believe it to be low dose, long term exposure."

The fire department first responded to a heart attack emergency at the apartment building Sunday at 10:39 a.m. A check for carbon monoxide poisoning at that time found only low levels not considered dangerous. When they returned again at 3:23 p.m., they found the two victims unresponsive.

A friend of the teen was in shock.

"I called my best friend and he was crying on the phone, and he said, ‘yes, she is no more.' I was…I started bawling," Nayaab Ahmed says.

City ordinance requires carbon monoxide detectors, and the fire department said they might have prevented this tragedy.

Fire Awareness Coordinator Joe Roccasalva says the ordinance requires, "you need to have a carbon monoxide detector within 14 feet of any sleeping areas which is the same distance that you need to have a smoke detector."

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea, and vomiting. As the buildup of carbon monoxide increases in you blood stream, the symptoms get worse and can include seizures, coma and even death.

The fire department says it's important to get your furnace tested regularly. The furnace in this case, they said, looked like it was in need of a lot of repair.

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