Carbon Monoxide Leak in Salem Sends Eight to the Hospital

Salem, VA - More than a dozen people in Salem were still out of their homes as of Tuesday night, after a carbon monoxide leak at their apartment complex sent eight people to the hospital.

Fortunately, one of those families had a working carbon monoxide detector.

The leak started with a furnace, and that's the reason why officials want to stress that you get your furnaces checked. It's a big deal because leaks in your system can become deadly.

Fire officials say having working carbon monoxide detectors is even more important.

Several Salem families pass the time watching TV, waiting for the air to clear back at their homes at Chestnut Manor Apartments.

Fire crews were forced to evacuate six apartments Sunday night an order that still stands until the furnaces inside can be fixed.

Hunter Sowell, 4, was one of the eight people hospitalized Sunday night.

"I was praying the entire time. His face was blood red from it," Sowell said.

Luckily, Hunter's mother, Brooke, has always maintained a carbon monoxide detector - which could have made the difference in many people's lives.

"(We)probably would have been all dead and that's a really scary thought to me because I love my kids so much. Yeah... I'm going to always keep fresh batteries in that detector," Brooke Sowell said.

Salem Fire and Rescue officials say multiple leaks were found, prolonging the evacuation.

The news came as no surprise for Latisha Rickerson, who also lives in the building. She says she has been suffering from symptoms for weeks.

Rickerson says her symptoms have disappeared since being at a hotel.

"It was like my chest caved in and I had to lay back on the bed and wait for the pain to go away. My chest was literally caved in and it finally came back up to where I could breathe," Rickerson said.

Some say a potential tragedy was averted, all because Brooke Sowell had the mind to have one simple safety device.

"Everyone should have one. I mean you don't know if you have carbon monoxide because you can't smell it," Sowell said.

Apartment management expects to have everyone back in their apartments by the weekend. They also say that they are now planning on replacing all of the furnaces at Chestnut Manor Apartments as a precaution against this happening again.