Nitrogen Poisons 10 in Nursing Home

ByABC News

B E L L B R O O K, Ohio, Dec. 8, 2000 -- A mix-up in an oxygen-delivery system is suspected of causing the deaths of two nursing home residents and the hospitalization of eight others.

An in-house oxygen system at the Carriage-by-the-Lake nursing home in this Dayton suburb might have accidentally been hooked to a nitrogen tank Thursday, a fire official said.

The nitrogen tank was labeled as containing nitrogen, but looks much like an oxygen tank, said Bob Miles, an assistant fire chief from nearby Washington Township.

Miles said the tank had an oxygen label that was partially covered by a smaller nitrogen label.

“You could see part of the ‘oxygen’ word on there,” he said.

‘An Accident’

Miles said investigators do not suspect any criminal intent. “We feel at this time, it was an accident,” he said.

A spokesman for Integrated Health Services Inc., which owns the nursing home, told the Dayton Daily News that the tank taken for testing was labeled as oxygen.

“The facility has only received, for years and years, only oxygen tanks,” said IHS spokesman Robert Gill. “There is no nitrogen at the facility as a matter of practice.”

Officials at the nursing home declined comment Thursday.

Four Remain in Hospital

Greene County authorities said Pauline Tays, 70, died at the nursing home, and Helen Tomlin, 76, was pronounced dead after being transported to a hospital.

Eight other residents were taken to hospitals, and four were treated and released. The other four remained hospitalized in critical or serious condition today, hospital officials said.

Authorities said full toxicology studies on the deceased residents may take several days.

The affected residents had all been on an oxygen system in the same wing of the 84-bed nursing home, Miles said.

Miles said the tank was included in a delivery of oxygen to the nursing home on Nov. 30. Medical facilities sometimes use nitrogen to purge lines used to carry air, he said.

Gill said only nurses and nurse’s aides, and sometimes the suppliers themselves, are allowed to connect the tanks into the in-house delivery system.

Firefighters Uncovered Error

Firefighters were called to the nursing home Thursday on the report of an illness, and soon found themselves treating several residents.

Sugarcreek Township Fire Chief Randy Pavlak said he was the first to arrive to treat a resident whose heart had stopped.

“As we were working the cardiac arrest, they came in and said they had one more,” Pavlak said. “And then they told me they had two more. As soon as they told me they had a third and a fourth one, my first thought was, ‘We have some kind of contamination in the building.’”

Upon realizing all the residents shared an oxygen system, Pavlak ordered it shut down and the residents transferred to portable oxygen systems.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events