Poison victims treated in dive chamber

Last updated 05:00 27/11/2012
Carbon monoxide
JOHN SELKIRK/Fairfax Media

INVESTIGATION: Police and fire service staff in the garage at the house where five people suffered carbon monoxide poisoning.

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Five Auckland residents hospitalised with carbon monoxide poisoning yesterday were taken to a navy base to be given oxygen treatment in a hyperbaric chamber.

St John Ambulance received a call at 12.22am that five people were "on the ground" at a house in Jever Pl, in the West Auckland suburb of Massey.

The group, two males and three females aged between nine and 53 years old, had been subjected to heavy doses of carbon monoxide believed to have come from a malfunctioning petrol generator.

A Cartmel Ave resident, whose property backs on to the house in question, said she was stunned when a man knocked on her door on Friday asking to run a plug between the houses because their power could not be connected until Monday.

"We were shocked by what he wanted to do and said it was illegal and very dangerous," she said.

Powershop chief executive Ari Sargent said the family had requested a connection with their company on Wednesday but unfortunately there had been a “slip up” and a delay.

He said the company suggested the family stay at a motel at Powershop’s cost but they had obviously chosen otherwise.

“Our operations guys have taken it pretty hard. It’s not a nice feeling to be involved.”

Sargent said the company was checking processes to ensure the delay did not happen again.

A fire service spokeswoman said: "We arrived to find five people on the ground in the house all semi-conscious from carbon monoxide poisoning."

Police said a family friend had been called to the house by one of the occupants when they began feeling unwell.

"He arrived and found the occupants in a severe state of distress and notified emergency services," a police spokesman said.

The group were all taken to North Shore Hospital and it is understood they were later transported to the naval base at Devonport to get oxygen treatment in a hyperbaric chamber - the same device used to help divers with the bends.

Medical toxicologist Dr Michael Beasley said carbon monoxide produced by a generator in a confined space could affect people in minutes.

Symptoms would begin with head aches, dizziness and a shortness of breath and as time went by could potentially lead to fluid on the lungs and heart attack.

He said there were plenty of stories from the US about people using camp stoves inside tents on cold nights and he hoped this incident would deter people from doing anything similar.

The house, which had a digger out front and looked to be under development, was cordoned off yesterday morning and police were to begin a scene examination assisted by the fire service "to determine the cause of the high levels of carbon monoxide".

The police spokesman said initial reports were that a petrol generator was being used in an attached garage to supply power to the house.

Doors and windows were open at the home this morning.

Neighbours leaving for work did not know the people living at the house but said they had recently moved in.
 
POISONED

October 2012: Kerry Alexander Murphy, 40, and Grant Christopher Wyllie, 49, die in an abandoned Coromandel mine while apparently operating a makeshift P-lab. Initial reports pointed to an explosion in or around the mine on the 309 Rd but police confirmed their death was caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.

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July 2012: Three people are taken to hospital suffering carbon monoxide poisoning in their Taranaki home. A faulty heater caused a ten-year-old boy and two women aged 38 and 57 to be exposed to increased levels of the gas.

December 2010: Ian Joyce dies of carbon monoxide poisoning in the family's caravan at Lake Alexandrina in Canterbury. The need for adequate ventilation in caravans, regular maintenance of their LPG appliances and the use of carbon monoxide sensors were all highlighted a month ago by coroner Richard McElrea in his interim findings into the death of the Timaru man.
 
What is carbon monoxide poisoning? Carbon monoxide bonds about 200 times more strongly with haemoglobin in the blood than oxygen does, which means that reducing levels of oxygen can be carried around the body. The brain and heart can be rapidly affected as can the foetus in pregnant women.

- Auckland Now

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