Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Kills One, Sickens 19 at NY Restaurant

A faulty heating system is being blamed for triggering a carbon monoxide leak Saturday, which killed the manager of a popular Long Island restaurant and sickened 19 other people.

The Legal Sea Foods Restaurant at the Walt Whitman Mall in Huntington Station remained closed Sunday, revealing half-eaten meals patrons left as they ran for safety.

A.J. Carter, spokesman for the Town of Huntington, said a fire marshal traced the poisonous, odorless gas to a leaky flue of a restaurant’s heating system. He said, “The issue was in the basement, where the manager…was overcome.”

A worker said that the 55-year-old general manager, Steven Nelson, a father of two, was found passed out in a basement restroom.

Megan Smith, the restaurant’s assistant manager, also was overcome by the fumes, when she went to search for Nelson, said the employee, who requested anonymity.

“It was madness,” the worker said. “She (Smith) went downstairs to inspect and disappeared. That’s when we knew something was wrong. People kept disappearing down there.”

Nelson was taken to Huntington Hospital, where he died of a heart attack, officials said.

Dr. Michael Grasso of Huntington Hospital said his emergency room staff treated ten other people for carbon monoxide poisoning, including three paramedics sent to the restaurant.  Dr. Grasso said that Smith was the only victim hospitalized overnight.

Eight other people were treated at the scene.

The restaurant was issued a summons for unsafe equipment and will not reopen until city inspectors are certain the problem is fixed, officials reported.

The owner of Legal Sea Foods, Roger Berkowitz, said losing Steven Nelson, a beloved manager, was like losing a family member. The restaurant’s bartender, John Restel, said Nelson was a beloved boss and world traveler who just returned from a trip to Israel.

If this restaurant would have had a carbon monoxide detector in place, perhaps this tragedy could have been avoided. For more information, contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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