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Generator in home sickens family

ST. PETERSBURG — A family survived a close call Friday after all five were overcome by carbon monoxide from a gas-powered generator operating in the living room.

"I just kept trying to walk and kept falling down," said Vennicee Washington, 39, who was hospitalized along with her three teenage children and husband, James Keller, when all five became dizzy and violently ill.

Fire officials are highlighting the near-tragedy as a reminder of hurricane season safety, when the threat of massive power failures looms large.

"Please remember to never operate a gas-powered generator in the home at all," fire Lt. Joel Granata said. "We don't want them in the home, in the garage or anywhere fumes from exhaust can seep into the home."

Washington said the family didn't do that Thursday night.

They used the generator to power an air conditioner and floor fans at their home at 2902 Fairfield Ave. S for a night's stay there.

Around 8 a.m. Friday, Washington woke up and started stumbling around the house. She discovered everyone else in the house was either groggy, vomiting or falling down.

All five were treated and released from local hospitals. The house was ventilated by St. Petersburg fire rescue crews.

Granata said hazardous materials crews discovered carbon monoxide levels inside the teens' bedrooms were approaching the near-lethal levels of 100 parts per million.

"It could have been catastrophic," Granata said. "The whole family could have succumbed to the fumes."

Casey Cora can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or at ccora@sptimes.com.

Generator in home sickens family 07/04/08 [Last modified: Monday, July 7, 2008 11:42am]

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