Response to 911 hang-ups leads to rescue of family from carbon monoxide

Police response to two 911 hang-ups in Great Cacapon in the early morning hours of Wednesday, July 10 led to the rescue of a family of three and their four dogs from apparent carbon monoxide poisoning. Responders said there was a gas generator running in an unvented basement of the home.

Deputy Dennis Jenkins and Sgt. Wade Shambaugh responded to a residence on Central Avenue in Great Cacapon after 911 dispatchers received two calls from the location shortly before 2 a.m.. In one, a woman could be heard in the background, said police.

When Deputy Jenkins arrived at the home, he said he heard faint moaning but no one responded to his knocking or voice. He was able to see a woman’s legs through the window. The deputy kicked the door in to gain entry to the residence. The woman indicated her son was also in the residence.

Deputy Jenkins and Sgt. Shambaugh saw two unconscious males — an adult and a teenager — and four unconscious dogs upon entry into the home.

Officers were unsure if the residents and animals were deceased or had been the victim of violence.

Almost immediately, officers became sick from being inside the home. Sgt. Shambaugh said that’s when he suspected carbon monoxide poisoning. Officers had to leave the residence and alerted 911 for fire and EMS crews to respond.

Volunteer firefighters with self-contained breathing units were able to enter the home and start ventilating the space to make it safe for first responders to enter again and render aid. Jimmy Reed of Great Cacapon Volunteer Fire Company was in command of the fire scene.

Fire, EMS and police personnel pulled the three individuals and four dogs from the home. All of the occupants survived.

The three people were transported to War Memorial Hospital and then to other medical facilities for treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Morgan County Animal Control took possession of the family’s dogs.

Sgt. Shambaugh said swift, decisive action by all responders led to the rescue of the family.

Opening the door immediately began ventilation of gasses from the home, responders said.

Exhaust from a generator running in the basement was the source of the fumes, said those on the scene. The generator was supplying electricity to the home.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen when exhaust from burning fuel builds up in an enclosed space. When too much of the gas is in the air, a person’s body replaces oxygen in their red blood cells with carbon monoxide, leading to headaches, dizziness, nausea, loss of consciousness and sometimes death.

Jenkins said he didn’t hesitate to enter the house to render aid when he heard the woman’s moans.

“It never crossed my mind that it could be carbon monoxide poisoning,” said Jenkins.

“There’s only one reason why those people are alive and it’s because he took the initiative and broke that door down,” Sgt. Shambaugh said of Jenkins.