Tuesday, August 07, 2001

3 critical from gas at mall work site

Half of Kenwood Towne Centre closed

By David Eck and Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SYCAMORE TOWNSHIP — Three construction workers were in critical condition at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton after being overcome by carbon monoxide at a work site at Kenwood Towne Centre on Monday morning.

        Ernest Venable, 21, of Hamilton; Anthony Plambeck, 33, of Crystal Lake, Ill., and Andrew Dittmer, 22, of Aurora, Ind., were transferred to the air base from Jewish Hospital. Five other people were in good condition at Wright-Pat after being transferred from University Hospital.

        The patients were being treated in a hyperbaric chamber, in which a patient breathes 100 percent oxygen at a pressure higher than sea level.

        They were among 25 people taken to hospitals after part of the large mall on Montgomery Road in Kenwood filled with high levels of carbon monoxide around 10 a.m. The deadly gas was caused by a malfunctioning propane-powered saw used in the construction of a new Gap location, Sycamore Township fire officials said.

        Five people were treated at Jewish Hospital in Kenwood and released, and 12 others were treated and released at Bethesda North Hospital.

        Fire crews were called after mall security found seven construction workers semi-conscious in the Gap site, Sycamore Township Fire Chief BJ Jetter said. Security officers had begun investigating after several people in the mall became sick.

        About half of the mall was

        closed while fire crews treated those exposed to the fumes and ventilated the building. The entire mall reopened shortly after noon.

        Fire and emergency medical services personnel said the construction workers received the highest exposure.

        “The construction guys were having chest pain, trouble breathing and nausea,” Chief Jetter said.

        Levels of the deadly gas reached 600 parts per million in the work site.

        “Anything over 19 parts per million is a problem and cause for alarm,” Chief Jetter said.

        According to a Kenwood Towne Centre written statement, “Our focus now is to work in full cooperation with the fire department to help determine the cause of this incident.”

        A lot outside the mall's Ken wood Road parking garage served as a triage area where EMS crews treated patients with oxygen and loaded them onto ambulances.

        Scores of uninjured store employees lined the sidewalk along the mall in sweltering temperatures. Fire crews called in air-conditioned Metro buses to use as cool centers until employees could return to their stores.

        Emilee Fritts of Mason works in a Radio Shack in the mall and was helping a customer when they were told to go outside.

        “We didn't know what was going on,” she said. “I'd been there 10-15 minutes when we were asked to leave.”


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