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5 Teens Died in Hotel from Carbon Monoxide

Services were held Saturday for three of the five teens killed two weeks ago in a Hialeah, Florida hotel room, when deadly carbon monoxide fumes seeped into their room. The Miami Herald reports that the five friends were celebrating a birthday at the Hotel Presidente, when they left their borrowed car running in the attached garage.

The Associated Press reported that friends of the deceased told police the car was having engine trouble so they likely left it running to avoid it not starting again. The door leading to the garage was slightly ajar, allowing the fumes to enter the hotel room, and the teens were found by a hotel maid the next day. She reported a strong smell of gasoline and saw that they were sprawled out on the floor, looking unconscious and not responding to her when she shouted ‘hello’.

In 2006, Florida law was changed to require installation of carbon monoxide detectors in new buildings. The Hotel Presidente (and other such older buildings) is exempt unless it undergoes major renovations. It is yet unclear whether a separate Hialeah ordinance was violated, which requires a higher level of carbon monoxide detection in older buildings.

USA Today reported the story, adding statistics and tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Carbon monoxide, a colorless odorless, tasteless gas kills more than 400 people in the U.S. each year, with 15,000 related emergency room cases.

The CDC’s branch chief for air pollution and respiratory health, Paul Garbe, provided the following preventative measures against carbon monoxide accidents:

• Install carbon monoxide detectors on each floor, especially where there are bedrooms. People who are sleeping or have been drinking will often succumb before waking. The best detectors plug into an electrical outlet but have a battery backup. “If you hear it go off, run from the house and then find a way to call 911. Don’t call 911 first.”

• Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas-, oil-, or coal-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.

The gas is released when burned carbon fuels are not properly vented. Symptoms of poisoning include headaches, nausea, fatigue and confusion. Inhaling higher levels leads to unconsciousness and death. The ill effects come on quickly like flu and are often mistaken for it.