MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa -- Marshalltown authorities are trying to determine the reason a local religious group ran a gas generator inside a church without ventilation.
Fifteen people were inside the church when they suffered carbon monoxide poisoning. All the victims were hospitalized, and one has now died.
The Marshalltown Fire Department deemed the unsafe back in 2011, and neighbors were surprised to hear people were congregating inside.
“We thought the place was abandoned, you never really see anybody over there," said Karen Gilgen, who noted she has never seen so much commotion on her otherwise quiet street. “We just didn’t know what to think, I didn’t know if it was a sniper or if it was something drugs, or something else that was going on, so we had no idea. Didn't even know it was at the church."
Fire officials say the generator was being used inside to power heat and lights, but say no doors or windows were cracked so there was not proper ventilation, which made the conditions dangerous.
“Those internal combustion gasoline engines have no business being in an enclosed location unless they are specifically designed to do so, and they are properly vented with an exhaust pipe to the exterior,” said Chris Cross with the Marshalltown Fire Department.
Officials say CO can be deadly when levels reach 35 parts per million; investigators found levels 40 times that inside the building.
“Once we arrived, we found a high amount of carbon monoxide. I think the highest reading they found was 1,400 parts per million, which is pretty significant," Cross said.
Fire officials says since 2011 there had been no request to reoccupy the church, and after inspection there was no indication anyone was living inside.
This is also a reminder not to use gas generators inside and to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home. Click here for more information on CO detectors.