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3 hospitalized after hot water heater leak causes high carbon monoxide levels in Freeport hotel

The Comfort Suites hotel was evacuated. An unidentified family of two adults and one child were brought to Mid Coast Hospital.
Credit: NCM

FREEPORT, Maine — Three people, including a child, were taken to the hospital Tuesday after a hot water heater leak caused high carbon monoxide levels at the Comfort Suites at 500 U.S. Rt. 1. in Freeport.

Four local emergency teams responded to the hotel around 9 a.m., including Freeport, Yarmouth Brunswick, and Topsham. 

According to Freeport Fire Chief Charles Jordan, the leak was caused by a broken hot water heater. Jordan said carbon monoxide levels were up into the 400-800 PPM range, which he said is "very, very dangerous."

As of about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, crews were checking hotel guests for symptoms of poisoning. The U.S. CDC says common symptoms include headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. 

"CO symptoms are often described as 'flu-like,'" the CDC explains. "If you breathe in a lot of CO it can make you pass out or kill you. People who are sleeping or drunk can die from CO poisoning before they have symptoms."

An unidentified family of two adults and one child were taken to Mid Coast Hospital. 

Jordan said the family's hotel room was next to the leaking hot water heater, which is why their levels were so high. They had left the hotel early Tuesday morning to drop the child off at a daycare in Bath. When the parents got back to the hotel, they found out the high carbon monoxide levels. Crews in the Bath area went to the daycare to bring the child to the hospital. 

Although guests are able to go back into the building to get their belongings, it’s unclear when the hotel will be open because of the broken hot water heater.

Jordan also said the hotel had emailed the fire department Monday saying they had an issue with their carbon monoxide detector going off. He said the fire department didn't get the email until Tuesday morning. 

That's when the department went to the hotel to check on the issue, and discovered dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in the lobby. At that point, the hotel was evacuated. 

Freeport Fire and Rescue are still on scene as of 12:30 p.m. Carbon monoxide levels are now low, and a hot water heater repair company is on scene. Windows in the hotel remain open. 

Jordan reminds the public that any time there is an issue with an alarm, carbon monoxide, or a fire, they should call 911.