Leaky pipe blamed for Long Island carbon monoxide death

The carbon monoxide leak that killed a Long Island restaurant manager and sickened more than two dozen other people was caused by a leaky pipe, officials said Sunday.

All of those hospitalized in the Saturday incident were either restaurant workers or emergency responders, A.J. Carter, a spokesman for the town of Huntington, N.Y., told the Los Angeles Times.

Steven Nelson, the manager at the Legal Sea Foods restaurant, was found dead in the basement. Carter said some emergency responders became sickened by carbon monoxide when they entered the room where Nelson was found.

Roger Berkowitz, president and CEO of Legal Sea Foods, told the Associated Press that Nelson, 55, of Copiague, had worked for the restaurant for three years and had two sons.

"It's a shock, he was a great guy, we consider ourselves a family," Berkowitz told the AP, adding that other employees were "traumatized." 

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas released when something is burning. The gas can cause suffocation when breathed by people and animals.

Huntington fire investigators found that the carbon monoxide leak came from a leaky flue pipe for a hot-water heater in the basement of the restaurant, Carter told The Times.

As a result, Carter said, the city has issued the restaurant a summons for having "faulty equipment." There were no issues when the building passed a town inspection last March, Carter said, and another inspection was due next month.

New York state fire code doesn't require restaurants to have carbon monoxide detectors, and there were no such detectors in the restaurant when the incident happened, Carter said.

“There were no carbon monoxide detectors present, and none were required," Carter said.

Berkowitz, the CEO, told the AP that the carbon monoxide leak was "a wakeup call for commercial businesses" and that monitors should be in all businesses.

The incident was also under investigation by Suffolk County police.

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