Carbon monoxide leak could take days to fix at Midtown apartments

Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 8:16 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Hundreds of tenants were evacuated Tuesday night following a carbon monoxide leak at The Venue apartments in Midtown. Officials say fixing the leak could take days, displacing hundreds right before Thanksgiving.

In total, five people were hospitalized, including one firefighter. Four pets were also killed as a result of the leak.

Rachel Barnes has called The Venue home for a decade. She’s grateful her three dogs are all okay but is heartbroken for her neighbors.

“The lady downstairs lost all her animals. All of them. Her cat and both her dogs. It’s so sad,” she said.

Now, Barnes and the other residents want answers.

Stella Maris, the company that manages The Venue, says the gas will not be turned back on until they can find out what caused the leak.

No gas and no working boiler means no heat or hot water.

The management company says the earliest it can be turned back on is Monday.

Residents are getting text messages that say:

“In an effort to prepare for a worst-case scenario, please try to make arrangements to stay with your family members or friends.”

Stella Maris also offered temporary relocation to other properties that they manage. One woman who spoke to us off-camera said her family got a hotel room last night because she didn’t have time to think of a Plan B.

“I got kids, so we stayed in a hotel room last night,” she said. “It costs me $150. They say they don’t know if they’re going to reimburse it.”

Barnes says she doesn’t have renters insurance or extra money to spend on a place to stay while her apartment is in disarray.

So she and her dogs will have to stay put until The Venue has working heat and hot water again.

“Me and my boyfriend get disability checks,” Barnes said. “We can’t afford that, that’s why we live here now. Which is all we can afford now.”

Action News 5 heard from Memphis Fire and a local HVAC company about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and how to detect it before it’s too late.

“In the situation that we saw last night... that’s a prime example of why it’s important to have a carbon monoxide detector,” said Memphis Fire PIO Qwanesha Ward.

What could have been a deadly situation for residents has officials stressing the importance of carbon monoxide safety and knowing the warning signs.

“Some of the symptoms that you experience (sort of like the firefighter), you get shortness of breath, some of the residents on the scene were that cherry red appearance, " Ward said. “Also vomiting, confusion, dizziness pain, [and] loss of consciousness.”

We also heard from the experts at Best Care, who suggest placing carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home.

“After they’re exposed to carbon monoxide for a certain amount of time, depending on how many parts per million of carbon monoxide there is in your air... [they] will detect how long it takes for the detector to go off,” HVAC service manager John Mcelroy said.

Mcelroy also says it’s important to get yearly inspections.

His company uses special equipment to search for issues in HAVAC systems like pin holes or even rust.

He says combustible gas leak detection checks can save lives.

“It can happen quickly,” Mcelroy said. “It might have been fine last year, [but] we come back out this year and it’s had a catastrophic leak in the heating chamber and you’re looking at a replacement.”

Ward says if you think you’ve been exposed, call 911 immediately.

“If you start experiencing headaches and vomiting out of nowhere, that’s something that you need to focus on and figure out the root cause, especially dizziness, loss of consciousness... any of those things,” Ward said. “That’s an emergency and you need to go right away.”

Another tip from Memphis Fire — never use a generator inside your home.

Ward says one of the most common causes of carbon monoxide poisoning is from using generators.

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