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January 20. 2014 9:14PM

Seven overcome by carbon monoxide are in the clear

MANCHESTER — Five members of a Bhutanese refugee family were feeling sick for most of Sunday, but Duryo Adhikari said they thought, it being winter, that they had come down with a virus.

"We woke up with a minor headache," he said. "We all thought it was a cold and sat around the heater."

He decided to take a nap on the couch, next to the gas parlor heater in the second floor apartment at 243 Auburn St. But when he woke up late in the afternoon, he started vomiting. His young niece and nephew were crying and then both of them as well as his wife went into seizures.

Adhikari called 911 and the dispatcher asked him if anyone was suffering from seizures. He immediately thought of gas fumes and turned off the heater. And then he called his in laws, who live further west on Auburn Street, to come help.

When they arrived, they were overcome by the odorless gas. Adhikari said he was going in and out of consciousness when firefighters arrived on the scene.

"I was just thinking I have to rescue everybody and my wife," he said.

All seven — he, his wife, Bhumika Chhetri, her sister Dila Chhetri, her two young children, Apikchya Chhetri and Ayojo Chhetri and his in laws, Ram Chhetri an Cheta Chhetri — were rushed to Catholic Medical Center. From there, they were taken by ambulance to a Boston hospital for further treatment.

Fire officials said one patient was unresponsive when firefighters arrived - but Adhikari said his wife, niece and nephew were all unconscious.

Late Monday morning, all were back in Manchester, staying at their in laws' apartment. The adults were still feeling a little sluggish, but the children had more than enough energy for them all.

District Fire Chief James Michael said the gas parlor heater — the one the family had gathered round to stay warm — malfunctioned and was the source of the deadly carbon monoxide.

Landlord Demetrios Krideras lives on the first floor. He is from Greece and speaks no English, but Bidhan Kalikoty, who lives on the third floor of the building, said his elderly landlord was worried about his tenants.

Yesterday, he gave the landlord the thumbs up signal, assuring him everyone was all right.

Michael said the high levels of carbon monoxide were found only in the second floor apartment, indicating the problem was only with that one gas parlor heater.

Adhikari was going to contact Krideras to find out when the heater will be fixed and when his family will be allowed to return.

He said the apartment recently was renovated and that his family had just moved back in, after staying in the third floor apartment.

Yesterday, a bright orange sign on the front door warned of poison — not carbon monoxide — but lead. A painter prevented reporters from entering the building, saying he had just finished removing lead from the front stairwells and common areas and was waiting for an inspector.

His work passed inspection and the inspector then gave the OK for reporters to enter the building.

pgrossmith@unionleader.com


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