Eight suffer carbon monoxide poisoning


When firefighters measured the levels of carbon monoxide they were shocked to find the meter went off the charts. The people who lived in the home are extremely lucky to be alive today.

"They were throwing up. One guy fell down right here on the floor and two boys was sick. They didn't open their eyes," said carbon monoxide victim Irayda Esteban, who described what happened to her Wednesday night and the other children as carbon monoxide enveloped their home.

Irayda's 's mother, Eva Gramajo, says the adults were also stricken by the fumes.

"I was the first person to fall. I thought it was something... another sickness that I had. I never thought it was this," said Gramajo.

In all, eight people were taken to hospitals; five were children and three were unconscious when firefighters responded at about 8:45 p.m.

PG&E had shut off power to the house because the owner was $2,600 behind on his payments.

"Once the power was shut down, they decided to take and put a generator in the basement of the home -- a 4,000 watt generator," said Harold Schapelhouman, Menlo Park fire chief.

That generator powered lights and other appliances for two days. It has now been impounded by San Mateo County building inspectors.

"As it got colder and obviously maybe they ran it longer, the carbon monoxide accumulated in the basement from the fumes from the exhaust," said Schapelhouman.

Most of the dozen people who lived there were extended family members who worked as day laborers. PG&E says it made numerous attempts over a two-month period to contact the landlord Bartolome Ramirez, who also lived in the house.

"We gave them a 15-day notice, also a 48-hour notice and tried calling the customers and finally we went out there," said PG&E spokesman Joe Molica.

Ramirez told ABC7 his home was foreclosed by the bank nine months ago after he couldn't make the payments anymore.

"We were there in the dark when the power was turned off, so we borrowed the gasoline generator from a friend," said Ramirez who did not know it was dangerous. He says he is to blame for what happened.

Everyone who was taken to hospitals has now been released.

"The good news is had they been asleep, they probably would have never woken up. They would have been dead in that house," said Schapelhouman.

The house had been foreclosed about nine months ago. The owner and the residents who lived there were told they had to leave by January 6.

The lesson to be learned is do not use gasoline-powered generators, barbeques, or similar items inside a house to keep you warm because they emit carbon monoxide. The fumes are odorless and colorless, so you really don't know what's happening.

Red Cross is offering shelter to these now-homeless residents. San Mateo County's Social Services will try to assist the families who were living in the house.

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