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Boy hailed as hero after saving parents, siblings from close call with carbon monoxide at their West Virginia home, officials say

Parents who chide their kids over playing late-night video games might think differently after hearing the news of Matteo Policano Wednesday in West Virginia.

Matteo, 10, was up late playing video games while his parents and four siblings slept when he heard a strange noise, according to reporting from a local news station. At first, the young gamer told reporters he thought the sound was from his game and ignored it. As the sound persisted, however, he became alarmed and woke up his father. They discovered the sound was coming from a carbon monoxide detector and, thinking it may need a battery change, the father decided to switch them out for new ones. When a second carbon monoxide detector within the home started ringing, the parents knew the situation was serious and rang emergency responders. An investigation discovered that “large amounts” of carbon monoxide was leaching into the basement from the family’s pool heater.

Hazards of Carbon Monoxide 

Carbon monoxide often goes undetected in the air because it cannot be seen or smelled and can build up quickly in enclosed spaces. When a person breathes in the harmful gas, it binds to the hemoglobin in the blood and reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen throughout the body. With the lack of oxygen, people experiencing early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can feel fatigued, dizzy or confused. Some incidents involving carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal. 

Data from the National Library of Medicine over a period of six years shows that though there was a decrease in overall carbon monoxide deaths – from 1,253 in 2015 to 1,067 in 2021 – accidental carbon monoxide deaths recorded for 2021 outnumbered intentional fatal incidents from the gas for the first time in the United States. That data was recorded as 543 deaths of accidental exposure to the gas and 524 cases of intentional carbon monoxide incidents. This means that, for the first time in four decades, accidental carbon monoxide poisoning deaths saw an increase in numbers. 

Recent Incidents in the United States Make National Headlines 

Over the weekend in Bridgeport, Connecticut, about 20 tenants of an apartment complex were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning after discovering a generator in the building’s basement was emitting the hazardous gas into the air. The basement was an enclosed space and was quickly filling the building with carbon monoxide. One resident called 911 because they felt ill and emergency responders rushed to the scene to evacuate the tenants. The generator was being used to power the building after electricity was shut off due to a nearby bus fire, according to local reporting. 

That incident took place just a week after dozens of residents living at a condominium located in  Leesfield & Partners’ own backyard of Miami were rushed to the hospital for a gas leak. The source leaking carbon monoxide into the 27-unit building resulting in 60 people being treated and 22 hospitalizations was a broken water heater, officials told local news outlets at the time. 

When asked by reporters what his takeaway was from the close-call at his West Virginia home, Matteo said he would urge everyone to install a detector in his home. 

“I think it would be a really good idea to [have carbon monoxide detectors in your home] just in case anything like this situation happens to you, or your family,” Matteo said.  

Leesfield & Partners

Over four decades of serving clients in Florida, Leesfield & Partners has seen the harmful effects that carbon monoxide poisoning has had on victims and their families. From an Iowa family who had a close-call at a Key West hotel due to an improperly maintained roof vent to fighting for statewide protections, Leesfield & Partners attorneys know the seriousness of this hazard. 

The incident with the family in Iowa took place when a hotel in Key west failed to bring in a licensed technician to inspect and repair a broken boiler room vent on the roof that had been damaged from a hurricane. Due to the hotel’s failure to do so, an unknowing family resting in their hotel room could have been faced with a tragedy when carbon monoxide began leaking into their room. Luckily, the family was able to call for help and be treated. Within days, the hotel rented out the room to other guests who also experienced poisoning from the gas. The law firm secured a $1,400,000 settlement for the family in that case. 

Another case handled by the firm involving the carbon monoxide exposure of a woman while staying at a resort resulted in an $11,750,000 award. 

As recently as last month, Founder and Managing Partner Ira Leesfield along with Evan Robinson, a trial lawyer at the firm, published an article in Trial Magazine warning people of the dangers of carbon monoxide and advising on ways to preserve documents for evidence that could be used in a potential lawsuit. 

“Carbon monoxide poisoning isn’t just a subtle threat; it’s the second most common cause of non-medicinal poisoning death,” the attorneys said in the article.

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