Gas company president enters plea in poisoning

Posted Sept. 18, 2008, at 7 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A New Hampshire gas company president who oversaw installation of a heating system that caused carbon monoxide poisonings at a Brewer apartment complex last month was not in court Thursday to address misdemeanor charges.

Instead, Portland attorney Jay McCloskey entered a plea of not guilty in 3rd District Court on behalf of James M. Kane of Concord Gas Heating Service for a Class E charge of making a gas installation without a license. The maximum penalty for that crime is a fine of $10,000 or six months in jail.

Assistant District Attorney James Diehl said the case now would be scheduled for a trial, although he predicted it would not come to that.

“We’re likely to see a plea agreement,” he said.

The charge against Kane stems from an incident in early August in which eight people were hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning. An investigation by the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation discovered that the poisonings were caused by the recent installation of a new heating system at the River House apartments on Penobscot Street.

The carbon monoxide leak, which apparently was caused by a separated furnace vent pipe, sickened several residents at the 31-unit apartment complex. Eight were hospitalized, including one woman who was treated for about a week.

Technicians who work for out-of-state companies, such as Concord Gas, are required to be licensed in Maine. The company also was required to have a city permit to do the work, which it did not have, according to Brewer code enforcement officer Dave Russell.

In addition to the misdemeanor civil charge, Bangor attorney Christopher Largay’s office, which represents four of the victims, is in the process of filing a suit seeking damages.

Jennifer Walton, who represented Largay’s office in court Thursday, said it had filed notices of claim indicating it plans to seek enough in damages to cover medical costs.

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