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March 7, 2014

Fire chief: Store was full of poisonous gas

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Four people could have died from carbon-monoxide poisoning at Coddington’s Florist, which was declared unsafe by code officials, the fire chief told the Oneonta Board of Public Service on Thursday. 

Two women were hospitalized Tuesday after being treated for dizziness and other symptoms at the scene of the business at 12-14 Rose Ave., Chief Patrick Pidgeon said.

CO readings in the basement near the propane furnace were about 450 parts per million, he said, and the cause of accumulated fumes was the result in part of a venting system clogged by snow and ice.

Pidgeon said the business had no CO detectors.

The owner of the business was listed as Coddington’s Florist, but names of individual owners weren’t clear Thursday, city officials said. The incident was reported through a 911 call at 2:18 p.m. Tuesday, Pidgeon said.

Robert Chiappisi, city code enforcement officer who went to the scene Tuesday afternoon, declared the building unsafe in an emergency ruling and sought a review by the Board of Public Service during its regular meeting Thursday. An inspection of premises Tuesday afternoon revealed many electrical and heating system violations, plus small rooms with accumulated combustibles.

Chiappisi said CO detectors aren’t required by law for businesses, but that may change.

After hearing reports from Chiappisi and Pidgeon, BPS commissioners decided to send a letter to the building owner requiring inspections of electrical and heating services within 10 days. Also, the owner must present the city code office with plans to correct violations, remove combustibles and have a code inspection within 30 days.

Pidgeon said a worker at the florist shop originally refused to be taken to the hospital but later went on her own and was admitted to A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital, treated and released.

Ambulance crews took Kathryn Kroll to Fox Hospital, Pidgeon said, and she later was transferred Tuesday night to a Syracuse hospital for treatment in a hyperbaric chamber. and indications Wednesday were that she was going to be released.

Pidgeon said he visited Coddington’s Florist on Wednesday morning to follow up, and the business was open. Another worker had refused treatment Tuesday, he said, and complete names of the others involved weren’t available Thursday.

While firefighters were at the scene wearing masks and checking the CO levels, a man affiliated with the business was trying to fix the situation and was wearing a paper dusk mask, city fire officials said. He was uncooperative and wanted authorities to leave, they said.

BPS Chairwoman Margery Merzig said if the owner doesn’t take action “in a timely fashion,” the board can reconvene to consider further measures.

Merzig said the board doesn’t want to close down the business but the situation was an emergency and raised concerns about people being in the building.

No one answered telephone calls to numbers at the florist shop and to Kroll at 6 p.m. Tuesday.