13 people sick with carbon monoxide poisoning

Investigators: Occupants used charcoal grill in kitchen for heat

Thirteen people, including five children, were treated Sunday after being sickened by carbon monoxide.

It happened about 4:30 Sunday afternoon. Eucario Hernandez, 31; Maria Rojas, 27; Veronica Ortez-Cruz, 18; Hildeberto Hernandez, 19; Cipriano Cruz, 40; Abraham Montiel, 31; an 8-year-old; a 13-year-old; a 10-month-old; and another person whose age is yet to be determined were inside the home.

Seven people were taken to the hospital and three were already receiving medical attention when the call came in to dispatch. One police officer and two EMT’s who responded were also treated for carbon monoxide poisoning but were not hospitalized.

When the first call came in, it was from a man not in the home. He said he received a call from his sister telling him she was dying.

When the first officer arrived on scene he was under the impression there was only one person requiring medical attention. When he got in the house he realized that number was much higher, according to the office.

When Arcadia patrol officer Chris Hanes arrived at the home he found two adults and two children struggling to breathe.

“He himself went to assist these individuals before being overtaken by carbon monoxide,” Trempealeau County Sheriff Richard Anderson said.

Arcadia Fire Chief Jeff Halvorsen was next to arrive at the home.

“I looked and saw Officer Hanes come out of the house and drop to the ground, and start vomiting and start gasping for air. That’s when I knew we had a medical issue and I ran to the house,” Halvorsen said.

Halvorsen got the officer in an ambulance and waited for fire crews to arrive.

“Once they got packed up and ready to go we sent them in, and started rescuing the victims and we ended up taking seven people out of the house,” Halvorsen said.

“The preliminary investigation indicates that the occupants were using a charcoal grill as a source heat for the house,” Anderson said.

The sheriff’s department said the home was out of propane and that’s why the homeowners were using the grill. The owner of the home, Willis Breska, told police the the tenants never told him the LP gas tank at the farmhouse was empty.

Halvorsen says one of the toughest parts was waiting for it to be safe to get into the home.

“Stressful. I mean for me to stand there and know that there is at least four in there and I can’t go in to help, that’s pretty stressful,” Halvorsen said.

When Hanes opened a bedroom door he was overtaken by not only the carbon monoxide but also rubbing alcohol.

Sheriff’s officials say they don’t know why but the residents tried to revive one another by using rubbing alcohol.

The sheriff’s department said that most of the residents have been released from the hospital and there were no deaths.