Watch CBS News

Carbon monoxide leak leaves 1 dead in Southwest Philadelphia

Man dies after carbon monoxide leak at SW Philly apartment
Man dies after carbon monoxide leak at SW Philly apartment 02:20

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A 59-year-old man has died in his Southwest Philadelphia apartment from what fire officials believe was carbon monoxide poisoning. Authorities found Francis Horst in his apartment on the 4300 block of Chester Avenue on Tuesday afternoon.

The apartment building is now empty.

Residents reported a gas leak Monday, and a building maintenance person was on-site Tuesday when fire crews arrived, but it was Horst's boss's 911 call that prompted officials to realize something was dangerously wrong with time running out.

"If he hadn't shown up, it could have been a lot worse," Charles Johnson, deputy chief of the Philadelphia Fire Department, said. "There was no alarms activated."

On Tuesday afternoon, fire officials were called for a man unresponsive in his first-floor apartment building at the corner of 48th Street and Chester Avenue.

When they arrived, they found Horst dead. A maintenance person who was there working on the heating system was also there.

"When they came in," Johnson said, "they were met by building maintenance who asked them if there were there for the CO."

Fire officials quickly began testing the air quality and found carbon monoxide levels at 275 parts per million, which is enough to kill a person within a couple of hours of exposure.

"We do know there were other multiple residents who complained of CO symptoms," Johnson said. "At least one of them went to the hospital yesterday."

"He always comes to work for the last 30 years," Cesar Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez owns the Gables Bed and Breakfast a few blocks away from Horst's apartment.

He says when Horst didn't show up for work Tuesday morning and didn't answer his phone, he knew something was wrong and went to check on him.

"It's a sad day for the neighborhood and for us," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez says Horst was like family and adored by guests who stayed there over the years. So much so one of the regulars painted a picture of him working out front.

"Francis didn't know that he was painting him and when he finished, he gave it to us," Gonzalez said, "and Francis was so happy and he felt so proud that his portrait is being showcased here on the property."

Now for a man known for his selfless spirit, his last act may have spared others.

"In some ways, he saved the entire building," Gonzalez said. "If he didn't work here and we don't have that relationship with him, there's no way I would go there."

CBS Philadelphia spoke to a man on site who says he's the building owner.

He would not give his name or a comment, but he says he's working with residents to help them find alternate housing. He would not comment on calls about a gas issue within the building.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.