Deadly carbon monoxide leak at Legal Sea Foods restaurant at NY mall

10:47 AM, Feb 23, 2014   |    comments
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First responders stand outside Panera Bread's store at the Walt Whitman Mall in Huntington station, N.Y., on Feb. 22.(Photo: Steve Silverman, AP)



HUNTINGTON STATION, N.Y. (USA TODAY) - Officials investigating a carbon monoxide leak at a New York mall that killed one and injured more than two dozen are focusing on the heating system of a restaurant.

A manager at Legal Sea Foods, a restaurant at the Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station on Long Island, died Saturday. Police identified him as Steven Nelson, 55. Authorities said 27 other people were taken to five area hospitals. None appear to have life-threatening injuries.

All of those affected by the fumes were restaurant employees, police or ambulance workers, said Suffolk County Police Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick.

"Right now, we are inspecting the heating system, and this incident seems to be confined to the basement area," Fitzpatrick said. "It does not appear to have made it in the area of the restaurant where the customers were."

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

The medical examiner will determine the cause of Nelson's death, Fitzpatrick said.

Legal Sea Foods tweeted: "We are profoundly saddened to learn of the tragic death of our General Manager Steve Nelson. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Fitzpatrick said the initial call to police came shortly after 6 p.m. about a woman who had fallen and hit her head in the basement of Legal Sea Foods.

Rescue workers who arrived at the scene started to feel lightheaded and nauseated and suspected a carbon monoxide leak, Fitzpatrick said.

In addition to Legal Sea Foods, two other restaurants, Panera Bread and The Cheesecake Factory, were evacuated as a precaution. The mall remained open.

"They told us to leave because of a gas leak," Cheesecake Factory patron Kathy Sella said. "I didn't want to blow up or anything like that. We were at the bar having a glass of wine and then, one of the waitresses, she said you have to leave."

The Walt Whitman Shops, located about 35 miles east of New York City, has more than 80 stores.

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