Whitefield couple improving after carbon monoxide poisoning on Christmas

Posted Dec. 26, 2013, at 1:22 p.m.

WHITEFIELD, Maine — An elderly couple hospitalized on Christmas for carbon monoxide poisoning are improving, officials said Thursday.

A neighbor checking on the couple about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday found the 84-year-old woman and 83-year-old man unconscious in their home on Heath Road, according to Lt. Rand Maker of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

Maker on Thursday confirmed that the couple did suffer carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator running in a garage attached below a living area of the residence.

The man was taken by LifeFlight of Maine helicopter to an undetermined hospital, and the woman was taken by Delta ambulance to MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta. Their names have not been released, but Maker said Thursday that both are improving.

The incident occurred one day after Timothy Woods, 50, of Knox was found dead in his garage about 15 minutes after he went into the closed area to put gas in his generator, which had been in operation since the early morning hours. Family members found his body, according to Maine State Police.

Woods’ death is the first suspected carbon monoxide death in Maine during the ice storm, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

A single generator can produce as much carbon monoxide as the exhaust from 100 automobiles, state toxicologist Andrew Smith said Thursday.

The National Weather Service and Maine Emergency Management Agency both warned that generators are one of the main hazards during outages. Portable generators should be operated outside at least 15 feet from doors and windows. Residents are warned not to use camp stoves or grills indoors and to keep a carbon monoxide detector, with batteries, in rooms where people sleep.

Signs of poisoning by the odorless, colorless carbon monoxide include headache, nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Public safety officials urge Mainers who experience these symptoms or have suspicions that they might be been exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning to get outside and call 911 immediately.

“The important point … is to have people check on people during this time,” Maker said Thursday, adding that Lincoln County — particularly Somerville, Jefferson, Whitefield and Dresden — were especially hard hit by power outages related to the recent ice and cold.

BDN writer Abigail Curtis contributed to this story.

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