WEST BOCA — An 89-year-old man died and six others, including his wife, were injured from carbon monoxide poisoning after a car was left running in an attached garage.
Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue said the carbon monoxide killed Hyman Hal Portnoy, 89, and seriously injured his wife, Elaine Sommer-Portnoy, who was listed in critical condition Monday at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach.
Three paramedics and two caretakers were also injured, but have been released from the hospital, authorities said.
The group grew sick Saturday morning after arriving at the house of an elderly couple in the 4800 block of Bocaire Blvd. The toxic gas had seeped into the home from an attached garage, where a car was left running for hours, according to Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue.
Authorities said the Portnoys woke up around 3:30 a.m. feeling ill and called their health care worker.
A caretaker came to their house and checked the two cars in the garage, but concluded they were off.
By 8:30 a.m., another health care worker arrived to look after the couple.
About an hour later, everyone was feeling nauseated and fire-rescue was called. The paramedics were in the home about 10 minutes before they, too, fell ill to the odorless gas.
They identified it as carbon monoxide poisoning and took everyone from the home.
“It happens way too often,” Fire-Rescue Capt. Don DeLucia said Monday.
The carbon monoxide came from a Lincoln in the two-car garage that was left running, DeLucia said. It was found with the battery dead and the gas tank empty.
Hyman Hal Portnoy drove to get a haircut about 3:30 p.m. Friday and left the car running in the garage when he returned, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Teri Barbera said.
DeLucia said that when the caretaker checked the garage at 3:30 a.m., the tank had probably drained to empty. That’s why nothing seemed wrong, he said.
There was no carbon monoxide detector in the house.
“If there was a carbon monoxide detector, we wouldn’t have had the incident we had,” DeLucia said. “They’re not expensive and are as valuable as a smoke detector.”
Carbon monoxide, invisible and poisonous, can cause fatigue, weakness, chest pains for those with heart disease, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, headaches, confusion, lack of coordination, impaired vision, loss of consciousness and death.
Oxygen in the blood is replaced with the poison. The body suffocates and is sent into cardiac arrest.
The Bocaire Country Club is a community of 236 homes situated on 300 acres of landscapes, lakes and fairways. Neighbor Bunny Kuhn said she saw the rush of ambulances Saturday morning and was shocked to see the paramedics become patients.
“Even the firemen had to go to the hospital, it was terrible,” she said.
Kuhn’s husband, Larry, said the Portnoys had both been married before, but their spouses had passed away. They met about 14 years ago in the Bocaire community and hit it off.
“They were a very happy couple, a very compatible couple,” Larry Kuhn said. “I have nothing but good I can say about them.”