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1 Dead, 8 Hospitalized In NW Minn. CO Poisoning

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- First responders hospitalized after responding to a deadly carbon monoxide poisoning near Vergas in Otter Tail County are home Wednesday night.

The wife of 67-year-old Thomas Elkin called 911 Monday night after finding him unresponsive.

Thomas Elkin was dead when first responders arrived. While they were consoling his wife, they say she too became sick from carbon monoxide.

"The wife kind of real suddenly became quite ill, very light-headed, almost to the point of passing out," said Mark Ebeling, Perham's EMS director and paramedic.

Elkin's wife showed high levels of carbon monoxide in her blood. Ebeling and two EMTs also became sick. They had been in the home for less than 30 minutes.

"When we were bringing the patient out … two of my staff members got quite light-headed, nauseated, not feeling very well at all," Ebeling said.

The first responders were first taken to Perham Health.

"In this this case it was very quickly. Our EMS responders were there just for a few minutes and they had very high levels when they arrived here," Dr. Tim Studer said. "It can happen very quickly, especially if the levels are very high."

All four were flown to Hennepin County Medical Center, which has a hyperbaric chamber to treat exposure. Only Elkin's wife required the treatment.

"You know how bad it can be, and until you're, you know, know where you're levels are, you're not sure how bad you are. So it can go downhill quick," Ebeling said.

An investigation found Elkin accidentally removed a safety feature while trying to unblock ice from his home's heating system, causing it to vent exhaust into the home.

Ebeling says Elkin used to be a volunteer with Perham EMS, and had recently sold his cabinet business and retired.

The first responders have been released from HCMC. Two sheriff's deputies and two firefighters were treated at a local hospital.

Minnesota law requires all homes to have a working carbon monoxide detector.

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