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Restaurant Manager Dead in Carbon Monoxide Poisoning at Walt Whitman Shops

Steven Nelson, 55, dies from carbon monoxide poisoning; more than two dozen others hospitalized Saturday evening, police say.

Photo Credit: Steve Silverman
Photo Credit: Steve Silverman
A restaurant manager has died and more than two dozen others were hospitalized following a carbon monoxide poisoning incident at the Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station Saturday evening, according to police and fire officials. 

Police responded to the mall around 6:10 p.m. after a report that a woman had fallen and hit her head in the basement of the Legal Sea Foods restaurant, police said. 

When police and emergency personnel arrived on the scene, they soon felt nauseous and dizzy and recognized it as a carbon monoxide event, police said. 

The restaurant was evacuated and police found the general manager of Legal Sea Foods, Steven Nelson, 55, of Copiague, unconscious in the basement. He was transported to Huntington Hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said. 

Twenty-seven other victims, including four ambulance personnel and three police officers, were transported to five area hospitals with non-life threatening symptoms after exposure to the deadly odorless gas, police said.

Most of the victims were employees at Legal Sea Foods and police said the investigation is focusing on the restaurant’s heating equipment.

Legal Sea Foods, The Cheesecake Factory and Panera Bread, which are not connected to the main mall building, were evacuated as a precaution. Police later said the carbon monoxide appeared to be confined to the basement of Legal Sea Foods. 

Newsday reported Sunday that a flue pipe leading from one of the water heaters at the restaurant failed, which led to the carbon monoxide buildup in the basement. There were no carbon monoxide detectors in the restaurant, the report said. 

Legal Sea Foods, which has restaurants in seven states, posted a message on its Facebook page late Saturday night regarding Nelson's death.

"Steve's tragic death is a shock to all of us at Legal Sea Foods," the message reads. "He was one of the finest people we've ever had the pleasure of working with. This is a very sad day."

The Huntington Manor Fire Department and Huntington Community First Aid Squad also responded to the incident at the mall on Walt Whitman Road. Ambulances from fire department rescue squads from Melville, Dix Hills, Greenlawn, Plainview, Syosset, East Farmingdale and Commack transported the victims to the hospital. 

About 100 firefighters and EMS personnel were on the scene with three engines, three heavy rescue trucks and 15 ambulances, officials said. The units were under the command of Huntington Manor Fire Department Chief Fred Steenson Jr., and Assistant Chiefs Frank McQuade, Mike DePasquale and Jon Hoffmann. Suffolk County Fire-Rescue and EMS personnel were also dispatched to provide assistance.

Kimberly March 14, 2014 at 12:21 PM
I'm still thinking about this tragedy. It is a requirement that residences and buildings where people sleep have CO2 detectors. What can we do to make it a law for all businesses to have one? Who can we write to?
Robert Pavelka March 14, 2014 at 10:41 PM
Do we need to make another law for something that is common sense. A responsible business owner is all we need not another law. Does the government really need to get involved, another excuse to write a useless summons. That is the problem with this country, too many irresponsible people sitting around waiting for the government to put our hand in the fire, than making it against the law. GMAFB. Put the friggin carbon monoxide detector in your business.
Kimberly March 15, 2014 at 11:33 AM
I understand what you're saying, but if this business had a carbon monoxide detector, a man wouldn't be dead. Obviously business-owners DO need to be told something that should be common sense.
Get Off My Lawn March 15, 2014 at 12:51 PM
And if no one owned cars there would be no deaths from car accidents. Contrary to your brainwashing the government can't keep you safe. They only take your liberty.
Kimberly March 15, 2014 at 01:41 PM
Okay, so you don't know who I should write to then..? Congressperson, etc.


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