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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Kills 1 At New York Mall

HUNTINGTON STATION, N.Y. (AP) - Officials investigating a carbon monoxide leak at a New York mall are concentrating on the heating system of a restaurant following the death of the eatery's 55-year-old manager and more than two dozen others being sent to hospitals.

Suffolk County police identified the man who died Saturday as Steven Nelson, a manager at the Legal Sea Foods restaurant at the Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station on Long Island.

Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick said the medical examiner would determine Nelson's cause of death.

Fitzpatrick said the initial call to police came shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday about a woman who had fallen and hit her head in the basement of the Legal Sea Foods outlet.

When rescue workers arrived at the scene, they started to feel lightheaded and nauseated and suspected a carbon monoxide leak, Fitzpatrick said.

1 Dead, 28 Sick After Carbon Monoxide Leak At N.Y. Mall

Police evacuated the restaurant and found Nelson, of Copiague, unconscious in the basement.

The woman who fell was taken to Huntington Hospital, as was Nelson, who was pronounced dead there. There was no immediate word on the woman's condition.

Authorities said 27 people were taken to five area hospitals. Fitzpatrick said none appeared to have life-threatening injuries. WABC-TV reported that all but a handful of patients had been treated and released.

All of those affected by the fumes were restaurant employees, police or ambulance workers, Fitzpatrick said. He said the leak appeared to originate with the heating system.

"Right now, we are inspecting the heating system, and this incident seems to be confined to the basement area. It does not appear to have made it in the area of the restaurant where the customers were," he said.

Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless and can lead to death by suffocation.

In addition to the Legal Sea Foods restaurant, two others, Panera and a Cheesecake Factory outlet, were evacuated as a precaution, even as the mall remained open.

"They told us to leave because of a gas leak," Cheesecake Factory patron Kathy Sella said. "I didn't want to blow up or anything like that. We were at the bar having a glass of wine and then, one of the waitresses, she said you have to leave."

The Walt Whitman Shops, located about 35 miles east of New York City, consists of more than 80 stores, including anchors Bloomingdale's, Lord & Taylor, Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue.

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mytownworld February 23 2014 at 3:21 PM

Really tragic, and negligent. A really fine restaurant too. We know it here since it originated in Boston area.
It is very scary about carbon monoxide and so many other types of silent killers not detected. And, as stated earlier, all sorts of infrastructure concerns everywhere. This shopping mall is very longstanding. But a simple carbon mon. detector couldn't pick this up? Maybe it did. We don't know full story yet.
As for the insurance comments/concerns-- The restaurant company's owners are very decent people and I'm sure they are devestated and will do everything to assist whoever is affected, and this man's family.
So sorry for all those involved.

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James R Partlow February 23 2014 at 3:24 PM

It seems to me that private homes in Suffolk County require carbon monoxcide alarms.
Shouldn't it be the same for businesses.

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cvanac8550 February 23 2014 at 4:11 PM

Sounds like water heater or heating system in basement. More then likely a water heater since most heating units in these applications are roof units..So I would suspect the water heater epecially in restauraunts with strong kitchen exhaust systems. When the water heater was first started the fans probably weren't operating so they operated just fine. Once the fans in the kitchen are in operation they create a vacuumn that sucks the exhaust gasses out of the flueways.
I found this condition at a Mc Donalds and had to shut off the water heater leaving them without hot water...better safe then...Anyway It takes years of experience with appliance installation and inpsection to understand these issues...It' just not out there anymore......Also you don't sufficate from CO. CO displaces the oxygen from your blood thats what kills you......

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bandicoot5 February 23 2014 at 4:22 PM

Whitman Mall has had some other issues in the past. They have had a couple of nasty fires. I think one of them was in the end of the mall where these stores are now. Sad to hear that someone passed away. Quick recovery to everyone else!

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tweet February 23 2014 at 12:34 PM

How very sad. In regards to someone's comment that how could this happen in a mall-- this wasn't an open food court area, these are anchor restaurants. They are seperate attached buildings at one end of the mall. I don't understand how there were not detectors in a restaurant. I was shopping near by and saw all the ambulances/emergency vehicles. I can't imagine how scared everyone was. We are so sorry to hear of the managers passing., :( thoughts and prayers for all those involved.

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patriot1too February 23 2014 at 4:57 PM

Why cant those darn yankees get it together?? Its always something awful going on there.

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Mary Elizabeth February 23 2014 at 11:57 AM


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ae12wrangell February 23 2014 at 4:59 PM

1 dead, was found in Legal Seas basement. Ironically, I live about 5 miles away, so when I heard, and saw police, fire and ambulances shoot past my house, I never though of carboon monoxide OR the Walt Whitman Mall. I just thought mabe the abandonded Barnes & Nobles store caught fire, or something. Then a few hours later I had on News 12 Long Island, and it just scared the crap out of me. Imagine all police and fire running into the restaurants and mall and saying, or yelling 'EVERYBODY OUT! THIS IS NOT A DRILL!!'

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hokanut February 23 2014 at 11:19 AM

I've worked in many commercial businesses as an HVACR tech. Gas heaters, both for space and water heating need clear air vents both inlet and outlet. Don't ever stack boxes near heater vents or the burners can draw air in from the exhaust side and fill the room with CO. I've seen this many times. Not blocking the vents is not just a suggestion.

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philkoury February 23 2014 at 10:01 AM

There is a big difference between carbon and carbon monoxide.

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