New York

Officials Reveal Cause of Mass Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in NJ

What to Know

  • Officials say a clay liner in a chimney fell and blocked carbon monoxide from escaping
  • The mass carbon monoxide poisoning in Perth Amboy on Thursday killed a teenaged girl and sickened dozens of residents
  • The building's owner says he's meticulous about the building and makes sure carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are working

Officials on Friday revealed the cause of a mass carbon monoxide poisoning that killed a teen and sickened dozens of other residents at an apartment building in New Jersey.

A clay liner in the chimney collapsed and obstructed carbon monoxide exhaust, leading to the deadly incident in Perth Amboy on Thursday evening, officials said.

The building’s owner, Michael Watts, told NBC 4 New York that it may have happened during Thursday’s fierce winter storm, but that it’s “one of those things you’ll never know.”

“No leak. The unit was burning correctly, it’s just the gases couldn’t escape. Something blocked the chimney,” Watts said.

Watts was visibly distraught as he spoke to NBC 4 less than a day after 42 people at his 12-unit building were overcome by carbon monoxide poisoning, including a 13-year-old girl who died. Twenty-seven of those sickened were police officers.

Officials said the carbon monoxide detectors were not working at the time of Thursday’s incident.

Watts said he’s meticulous about the building. He checks to make sure all the units have working carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, and makes sure the detectors’ batteries are checked and replaced each year. But sometimes tenants remove the batteries, he said.

“Educating these people to understand that you can’t take the batteries out of any detector,” he said. “I hate to say, it happens a lot.”

Several people were critically injured in the mass poisoning, including a man in his 40s, a 21-year-old woman and a 14-year-old girl. The city is offering shelter to the people displaced by the carbon monoxide.

Watts said he is cooperating fully with authorities as they continue their investigation.

NBC 4 has reached out to the mayor’s office for an update on the investigation. No one had responded by Friday evening.

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