What to Know
- Authorities said firefighters found levels of 1,600 parts per million of carbon monoxide inside the home; the usual level is zero
- Rescuers said they didn't hear any alarm going off when they entered the home
- Authorities are looking into a malfunctioning hot water heater in the basement as a possible cause of the carbon monoxide leak
A neighbor out for a walk with his girlfriend Monday responded to a call for help and encountered a terrifying scene: young children convulsing on the grass outside a New Jersey home and multiple unconscious adults inside.
Authorities say the victims were sickened by an apparent carbon monoxide leak at a home on Fennimore Court in Flanders. In total, the two young children, along with the homeowner's wife, two stepsons and three other civilians, along with four police officers, were hospitalized.
Afam Nwandu, a financial adviser at Morgan Stanley with no emergency training, says he and his girlfriend Mel Milo were taking an evening stroll past their neighbor's home around 7:30 p.m. when they heard the call for help. The neighbor's two children were convulsing on the grass outside, and his wife and two stepsons were still inside.
"He said, 'Help me, help me,' and we didn't know what was going on," said Nwandu. "He said, 'Please come, I can't get my wife.'"
Nwandu says he and Milo rushed inside and carried the neighbor's wife down the stairs. They then opened all of the windows in the basement but couldn't drag up the two men, the neighbor's stepsons, who had passed out down there. Emergency crews were able to haul the stepsons out.
"It feels like it was fate for us to be there, and I'm hoping everyone is OK," said Milo. "That's the most important thing."
Nwandu and his girlfriend were among the 12 people taken to a hospital for evaluation. They were treated and released, and the mayor of Mount Olive Township, where Flanders is located, later issued a statement calling them both heroes.
"These people stepped up to the plate, and I can't say enough about their bravery," said Mayor Robert Greenbaum. "The whole community thanks them."
The conditions of the other victims weren't immediately available Tuesday afternoon, but all are expected to live.
Authorities said firefighters found levels of 1,600 parts per million of carbon monoxide inside the home. The usual level is zero. Rescuers said they didn't hear any alarm going off when they entered the home.
The family does have two dogs who neighbors say were barking all day. The barking got so desperate that neighbors called the father at work and he came home to find his entire family unconscious. It was just as he began dragging them outside that Nwandu and Milo walked by.
The cause of the leak is under investigation. The mayor says investigators are looking at a malfunctioning hot water heater in the basement.