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Firefighters find 2 dead from carbon monoxide in Pa.

By Matthew Bowers
The Virginian-Pilot

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Suspected carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator running indoors killed two men and sent a woman to the hospital in critical condition Wednesday.

That was a day after a passing truck snagged a low-hanging line and cut power to their home, its owner said.

Found dead inside the structure in the 2500 block of Spruce St. were William James Lashley, 86, and Isaac Lee Bowser, 47, said Capt. Paul Hoyle, fire department spokesman.

Lashley’s unconscious wife was hospitalized at Bon Secours DePaul Medical Center in Norfolk, which has a hyperbaric chamber, Hoyle said.

Such a chamber is used to deliver high doses of oxygen. The combustion of an unvented gasoline-powered generator produces dangerous levels of colorless, odorless carbon monoxide, which interferes with the body’s ability to take in oxygen.

Fire officials didn’t release the name of Lashley’s wife.

A worker returning Wednesday to complete repairs to the electrical system at the house heard the generator running inside, couldn’t enter or rouse anyone, and went to the nearby home of Darlene Bell to call the owner and emergency crews, Bell said.

The first firefighters on the scene shortly after the 9:17 a.m. call donned breathing apparatus after hearing the running generator, and recorded carbon monoxide levels of more than 1,050 parts per million inside the door, high enough to be lethal in one to three hours, Hoyle said.

The wife was alone in a bedroom behind a closed door, which may account for her survival, Hoyle said.

John Hall, whose Portsmouth company was doing the repair work, said the generator was not his.

The owner, Darnell Griffin, said he didn’t know about the damage or the repairs until Wednesday. He said the Lashleys had been his tenants there for about nine years. William Lashley would bicycle close to home for exercise, and his wife was active in a church.

“Very good tenants,” Griffin said. “No fuss.”

The home was equipped with smoke detectors, but not a carbon monoxide detector, he said. Hoyle called the tragedy a warning to install such detectors.

Shaken relatives of Bowser who gathered at the scene declined to be interviewed.

Griffin said he had planned to sell the house, but had worried about how to tell the Lashleys.

“I definitely didn’t want it to happen like this,” he said, looking at the house.

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