MARYLAND

Bethesda apartment building gas leak sickens several

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BETHESDA, Md. (WJLA) - A carbon monoxide leak sent more than a dozen people to the hospital Saturday. It happened at the Middlebrooke apartments on Battery Lane.

Photo: Richard Reeve/WJLA

Authorities are investigating why a back-up generator began venting the gas. First responders found high levels of CO in all 11 floors of the building. About 150 people were evacuated.

"We put our head out and there was the firefighters saying get out, get out," says Priscilla Lewis.

"They told me there was a CO leak or were suspecting one," says Rob Marcarelli.

Fire crews responded to the 10:30 a.m. medical call and found two men, at least one maintenance worker, behind  rear entrance of the building, overcome by carbon monoxide fumes.

"A generator had been running," says Assistant Chief Scott Graham of Montgomery County Fire and Rescue. "We don't know how, we don't know why, but it was not ventilating properly."

Firefighters wearing gas masks began an urgent evacuation, going door to door on all 11 floors.

"They said 'Ma'am, get yourself together, get dressed, got to go,'" says Jill Brown. "I was like 'Am I in danger? Am I going to pass out?' They were like "No, just get something on and come out.'"

A triage was set up outside the building.

"One of my friends is on the third floor. Apparently she fainted and went to the hospital," says Marcarelli.

Authorities say the CO levels from the faulty generator were sobering. Normal CO levels are commonly below 35 ppm. The levels at Middlebrooke were between 200 and 800 ppm.

While investigators look into what went wrong, most agree it was a miracle that no one died.

"You're grateful," says Andrew Hall. "You're grateful for the response. You know, it could have been worse, absolutely."

Six people suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries.

The building did not have CO detectors, which aren't required in Maryland. But fire officials say this is a wake up call for those who don't have one.

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