New Rochelle police responding to a report of a possible heart attack last night at 38 Sussex Road near the Albert Leonard Middle School found a mother and two daughters unconscious and near death in the house. The mother and one daughter were found on the first floor, the second daughters was found in her second-floor bedroom.
"I owe everything to the New Rochelle Police, Fire and EMS", said Alicia Popper, the mother of the two girls, Bridget Stack, age 13, and Darcy Stack, age 9. "We wouldn't be alive, believe me".
Popper recalled feeling woozy and sick to her stomach but unsure of what was happening. She thought she might be having a heart attack but when both she and her daughter began convulsing she called 911.
She reached New Rochelle police Sergeant Eddie Hayes.
"It's divine intervention that I called 911," said Popper. "He kept telling me 'stay awake, stay awake' but I couldn't."
First on the scene were three New Rochelle police officers -- Melvin Molina, Timothy Grosso and Dwayne Jones. They broke down the door to gain entry and found Popper passed out on the floor with the phone still in her hand.
The officers could see a thick haze and quickly felt the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning immediately. One described it as "like hitting a brick wall".
"Grosso carried me out, Jones took my older daughter and Molina got my sleeping daughter from upstairs", said Popper.
An officer on the scene reported the bodies were "stiff", "lifeless" and "not responding". The New Rochelle Fire Department was called to the scene. The officers used CPR to revive the victims.
Firefighters from Engine 23 and Engine 13 of Station #3 administered oxygen to Popper and her daughters as well as Molina, Grosso and Jones. All six were taken to Sound Shore Medical condition where they recovered and were released.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas, sometimes called “the silent killer." The IAFC estimates that 500 people die each year in the United States from unintentional non-fire carbon monoxide poisoning. Deaths, they say, which could have been easily avoided by installing a CO detector in the home.
Popper says she just took out her CO detector with the intention of replacing it.
"I just down on Drake Avenue and was heading over the Home Depot but was running late and decided to do it later", said Popper, expressing a wave of relief, realizing how close to death she and her daughter had been.
The New Rochelle Fire Department measured the level of carbon monoxide in the house at 1,000 ppm well beyond acceptable limits. An investigation by the fire department found the chimney flue was closed, the doors and windows and sealed and carbon monoxide escaping from the furnace.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "average levels in homes without gas stoves vary from 0.5 to 5 parts per million (ppm). Levels near properly adjusted gas stoves are often 5 to 15 ppm and those near poorly adjusted stoves may be 30 ppm or higher. The OSHA standard for workers is no more than 50 ppm for 1 hour of exposure. NIOSH recommends no more than 35 ppm for 1 hour. The U.S. National Ambient Air Quality Standards for CO (established in 1985) are 9 ppm for 8 hours and 35 ppm for 1 hour. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends levels not to exceed 15 ppm for 1 hour or 25 ppm for 8 hours."
Readers can purchase carbon monoxide detectors for less than $30 at any hardware store or online at Amazon.com:
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was edited following an interview with Alicia Popper who provided additional details for the story.