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Officials continue to investigate carbon monoxide leak in Glassport home

| Thursday, March 20, 2014, 12:37 p.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
A family of five was hospitalized on Wednesday night when they were sickened by carbon monoxide conditions at this Glassport residence at 840 Vermont Ave.

Glassport will cite a landlord for code violations at a rental home on Vermont Avenue where a carbon monoxide leak hospitalized five members of a family who moved there just days earlier, borough Council President David Kowalski said on Thursday.

“They are very lucky. It's very possible, if they had been asleep, we might have had a catastrophe,” he said.

Neither Kowalski nor other municipal officials named the tenants, identified as a 35-year-old woman and her four children ranging from kindergarten to high school age.

They were discharged about 3 a.m. Thursday from UPMC Presbyterian, said Kowalski, who lives across the street from the rental in the 800 block of Vermont.

He said an 11-year-old boy at the home appeared most sick and fell unconscious before emergency responders arrived about 8 p.m. Wednesday. The family came from Virginia and began moving into the two-story home this week, Glassport officials said.

Allegheny County property records identify the landlord as Yehudai Amit, who could not be reached for comment. He bought the house in January from Realty Choice Investments LLC for $49,000, records show.

Glassport building inspector Steve Volpe said he believes a company oversees the home.

Dov Ratchkauskas, listed as owner of Realty Choice, said the property was not under his management. Ratchkauskas is a principal with Squirrel Hill-based PGH Capital Management.

“This has nothing to do with us or anything that we're connected to,” Ratchkauskas said.

A building inspection on Thursday afternoon found that carbon monoxide, an odorless gas, probably leaked from a gas-fired furnace or a water heater in the basement. Volpe said ductwork near the furnace had rusted through.

He said he would recommend a new furnace and new exhaust-chimney liners be installed before anyone lives in the house again.

It appeared maintenance workers made limited repairs in the furnace area after the family was hospitalized but before the Thursday inspection, Volpe said. The family remained out of the home in the afternoon.

Under borough rules, Kowalski said, the home should have been inspected before the family moved in. He said the property owner failed to ensure that was done and meet other borough code standards for a rental property.

“They had no permits at all. No inspection, no nothing,” Kowalski said. He said possible fines are yet to be determined.

Kowalski left open the possibility of additional legal action against the property owner depending on the outcome of reviews by municipal authorities. Utility provider Peoples Natural Gas is looking into the matter with the Glassport Fire Department, Peoples spokeswoman Erin O'Donnell said.

She urged anyone with symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning to call 911. The gas appears when carbon-based fuels such as natural gas don't combust completely, often leading to headaches, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting or convulsions.

About 450 people in the United States die from carbon monoxide poisoning each year, according to the American Medical Association.

“This should never happen, especially when there's children involved of those ages,” Kowalski said. “It's a shame.”

Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or asmeltz@tribweb.com.

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