Possible carbon monoxide poising during boat trip
An outing on Lake Tahoe Sunday in a casino executive’s boat nearly turned tragic after 10 people on board were exposed to suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.
The condition for each patient appeared stable when they arrived at Barton Memorial Hospital, but all 10 were expected to undergo several hours of evaluation, hospital officials said.
Some passengers began to experience headaches as they returned to Round Hill Pines Beach shortly after 5 p.m. in a 27-foot cabin cruiser owned by Kirk Ledbetter, customer services systems manager for Harveys Resort Hotel/Casino.
Three families spent the day in the boat on a trip to the North Shore.
By the time they reached the dock, one of the passengers, Charna Knerr, appeared to have lost consciousness and her husband, William, attempted to pull her out of the boat.
As he did, he collapsed and fell into the water, witnesses told authorities.
After bystanders pulled him out of the water, he said he felt fine. He then reportedly went into convulsions and fell in the water a second time, again being pulled out by bystanders.
“They had just came in,” said Frank Forvilly, who operates the food concession at Round Hill Pines. “I saw them getting off the boat and one of them fell in the water. I said, ‘call 911’ and ran down to help.”
Others – including Ledbetter’s wife and two children – experienced irregularities ranging from dizziness to near loss of consciousness as they exited the boat, the Tahoe-Douglas Fire Protection District reported.
“They were all lying down, looking woozy,” said Jack Nino, a bystander who was near the beach when the boat docked.
Nine were taken by ambulance to the hospital. Ledbetter was driven to the emergency room by a friend. He told paramedics he felt fine, but the rescue crews strongly recommended that he see physicians.
Tahoe-Douglas Chief Tim Smith called the symptoms consistent with carbon monoxide poisoning. Even though rescuers on the scene could not confirm the cause of the patients’ irregularities, Smith said he was “pretty convinced it was” poisoning from the deadly, odorless and colorless gas.
“An elevated level” of carbon monoxide registered on a hazardous materials detector used by a Tahoe-Douglas firefighter who inspected the boat, said Capt. Randy Flynn.
The level was within what is considered safe for human beings, however, the reading was taken several minutes after the boat was turned off with the cabin windows left open.
Firefighters did not notice an immediate carbon monoxide source and recommended that the vessel be inspected for potential exhaust leaks or other possible problems.
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