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3 from Aitkin area hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning

Three Aitkin area residents were hospitalized due to long-term exposure to carbon monoxide. 

The Aitkin County Sheriff’s Department on Monday reported an unknown medical was reported at a rural Aitkin residence at 6 a.m. Thursday. Emergency personnel arrived at the home and found three people, Richard L. O'Neil, 51, Cindy L. Sutton, 51, and Mary L. Sutton, 78, suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. 

The victims were transported by ambulance to Riverwood Health Care Center in Aitkin and subsequently airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center. All three were treated and have released from the hospital. 

 The Aitkin Fire Department responded to the residence and detected high levels of carbon monoxide. The cause of the elevated carbon monoxide is believed to be a blocked exhaust pipe, said Aitkin Fire Chief Brian Pisarek. 

“They didn’t even know,” they were being sickened by carbon monoxide, Pisarek said. “It was a long-term events that didn’t spike up to being something deadly. They had long-term exposure.”

Pisarek said firefighters often see carbon monoxide cases this time of the year, as people are turning furnaces back on. He said carbon monoxide poisoning can occur from a blocked vent, bad combustion or a a pin hole-sized leak. For those reasons he suggested people should have regular maintenance and inspection of their furnaces. 

Carbon monoxide detectors are required to be within 15 feet of every bedroom and on every floor within a residence. Pisarek said people should not buy combination carbon monoxide and smoke detectors because of possible confusion on the alarms. He also said the best investment is a carbon monoxide detector with a digital display that shows toxicity levels. 

“If the victims would have done that,” at the rural Aitkin home, Pisarek said, “it would have alleviated the problem.”

Becca Clemens
After graduating high school in 2004, I attended Central Lakes College in Staples, MN for 2 years where I got a diploma in Communication Art and Design. I then transfered up to Bemidji State University in, you guessed it, Bemidji, MN. In the spring of 2009, I graduated from BSU. Then in the fall of 2009 I got a job at Echo Publishing, a sister company to the Brainerd Dispatch.