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Carbon monoxide leak causes death

A faulty water heater flue pipe caused the carbon monoxide leak that killed a New York restaurant manager and sent more than two dozen people to hospitals, a fire official said Sunday.

Huntington Chief Fire Marshal Terence McNally said the fumes were circulated in the basement by the ventilation systems at the Legal Sea Foods restaurant at the Walt Whitman Shops on Long Island.

Restaurant manager Steven Nelson was found unresponsive in the basement on Saturday night and pronounced dead at a hospital.

Roger Berkowitz, president and CEO of Legal Sea Foods, said Nelson, 55, of Copiague, had worked for the restaurant for three years and had two sons.

"It's a shock, he was a great guy, we consider ourselves a family," Berkowitz said, adding that other employees were "traumatized."

Berkowitz said the carbon monoxide leak was "a wakeup call for commercial businesses" and that monitors should be in all businesses.

Authorities initially went to the restaurant after receiving a call about a woman who had fallen and hit her head in the basement. Rescue workers who arrived at the scene started to feel lightheaded and nauseated and suspected a carbon monoxide leak, officials said.

The restaurant was evacuated and 27 people were treated at hospitals. All of those impacted by the fumes were restaurant employees, police or ambulance workers.

The building was not required to have carbon monoxide detectors, and there were none, McNally said.

Carbon monoxide is odourless and colorless and can lead to death by suffocation.

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