Faulty vent blamed for CO poisoning | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Faulty vent blamed for CO poisoning

Rob Bhatt

Faulty ventilation may have caused a near fatal carbon monoxide leak Sunday at a South Lake Tahoe motel.

Bob Moser, general manager of the Lucky Lodge of South Lake Tahoe, said a maintenance worker at his motel found damage to the ventilation duct leading out of the room where the victims were injured.

The two victims, Di Thi Phan, 46, and Long Vo, 45, both from Stockton, Calif., on Tuesday were reported to be recovering from their exposure to the deadly gas. The two were airlifted Sunday afternoon to Travis Air Force Base near Vacaville, Calif., where they were placed in a hyperbaric chamber to help remove the poisonous substance from their blood.

A maid at the Lucky Lodge found the two unconscious in their room Sunday shortly after noon and alerted authorities.

Firefighters and paramedics responding to the scene turned off the natural gas wall heater, pulled the two out of the room and administered oxygen. The male patient, Vo, was reportedly unconscious at the scene while the female was semi-conscious. The two were taken by ambulance to Barton Memorial Hospital and later airlifted to the Air Force base.

Initial readings showed no excessive levels of carbon monoxide, which displaces oxygen in the blood stream. However, a technician from WP Natural Gas discovered excessive levels of carbon monoxide in the room after turning the heater back on.

Moser said his maintenance workers after the incident checked the heating systems in all the rooms, including the ground floor unit where the victims checked in Saturday afternoon.

“They found a damaged vent in the roof,” Moser said on Tuesday. “It wasn’t allowing the burnt gasses to escape properly.”

Moser said his workers did not find additional problems in any other rooms at the Stateline Avenue motel.

State and city building codes require every hotel and motel room to be equipped with smoke detectors. However, there is no law requiring carbon monoxide detectors, which can be purchased in the $20 to $60 range and are popular among homeowners.

“We have smoke detectors,” Moser said. “But we don’t have CO detectors. It’s something we are looking into.”

The victims’ room has been unoccupied since Sunday, and gas company technicians shut the heater down and directed the motel managers to have it repaired.

Moser said his crews were fixing the vents Tuesday.

South Lake Tahoe building officials were scheduled to inspect the site Tuesday afternoon, but their findings were unavailable prior to press deadline.

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