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7 kids, 3 adults sickened by carbon monoxide in church

The victims were inside the church when a gas line malfunctioned and they began passing out and feeling sick

By Mohammed Kloub
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — When his siblings and other churchgoers started complaining of headaches and falling asleep, Malachi Ross couldn’t attribute it to a boring pastor.

Ross, 18, attends Bethel Apostolic Church with his family every week in the Austin neighborhood on the West Side. When multiple family members started passing out around him Sunday, he knew something was wrong.

“My sister was stumbling and trying to tell us what was wrong, but before she could she passed out and hit her head on a pew,’’ Ross said.

His sister was among seven children and three adults including his mom who were taken to hospitals Sunday afternoon after falling ill inside the church due to 'extremely high' carbon monoxide levels, according to police and fire officials.

The victims were inside the church in the 5400 block of West Jackson Boulevard when a gas line malfunctioned and they began passing out and feeling sick, Chicago police and witnesses said.

A service had just ended and congregants were getting ready for a bible study class, including Ross and his siblings.

The first call came in at 2:41 p.m. for two sick children, said Chicago Fire Dept. Chief Jack Nagle, who spoke at the scene.

“I saw people falling asleep and talking about headaches, and I started getting a headache too. That’s when we started getting people out and telling someone to call 911,’’ Ross said.

“It wasn’t that the pastor was boring or anything, a lot of people were falling asleep.”

Ross then began helping his father assist congregants out of the church as they waited for paramedics to arrive.

At least 10 ambulances were sent to the church and took the victims to Stroger Hospital and West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park, where their conditions had stabilized, said Chicago Fire Department paramedic Keith Gray.

A faulty boiler was likely to blame, according to Nagle, who said the carbon monoxide levels were "in excess of 300 parts per million.'' Anything in double digits can be life-threatening.

Police had said there were two children found unresponsive early on, but Gray said everyone was expected to be fine.

An EMS Plan II and a hazardous materials incident were canceled by 3:15 p.m.

The CTA's No. 126 Jackson buses were temporarily being rerouted due to the incident, according to the transit line. The street was not taped off.

Copyright 2017 Chicago Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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