Carbon monoxide incident claims a life

Investigation is ongoing as to what happened

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One person has died from carbon monoxide poisoning Sunday afternoon in a vacant Marshalltown church building according to authorities.

Fourteen others were injured in the incident, with some victims flown by air ambulance to hospitals in Des Moines and Iowa City.

No additional information was available about the decedent as of press time Monday, or the current condition of those injured.

Exhaust fumes from a gas-powered generator, which ran for an undetermined amount of time in an unventilated basement of the Church of God building, 305 E. South St., let out “lethal levels” of the colorless, odorless gas carbon monoxide, Deputy Marshalltown Fire Chief Christopher Cross said.

The generator was used to provide light and heat in the building, which had no electric or gas service according to Alliant Energy.

The building had not functioned as a church for some time and nobody was permitted to be inside, Cross said.

“On Monday the Marshalltown Fire Department inspected the building,” said a press release issued by Marshalltown Fire Chief David Rierson. “Inside, numerous violations of the fire code were discovered. Fire Department records show the building was closed February, 2011 and no requests or applications for occupancy have been received. There were no permits active for the building. Inspection of the structure found no signs that the building was being or had been lived in. The investigation continues and further information will be released as it becomes available.”

It remained unclear Monday afternoon why individuals were inside the building.

A sign written in Spanish referenced prayer services on Sundays and Wednesdays, but it also was unclear when, or how the long the sign had been displayed.

The Church of God is listed as building owner by online Marshall County Assessor records.

Authorities initially responded to a call about an odor of gas inside a building with people passing out. According to the Marshalltown Fire Department, firefighters, law enforcement and UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown EMS officials reported. Upon arrival, police officers found people inside the building with complaints ranging from difficulty breathing to headaches. Authorities immediately began removing people from the building. On arrival of MFD crews, the remaining victims were also removed.

The American Red Cross was on standby to provide “warming houses” for victims, said spokesperson Mark Tauscheck. “However, none were needed, as all victims were hospitalized.”

“Residents of Marshalltown were saddened to learn of this tragedy,” said Mayor Jim Lowrance. “It is truly unfortunate there was a loss of life and injuries. Marshalltown fire and police, joined by UnityPoint Health EMS crews, responded quickly, and reacted professionally to the deadly situation. Our thoughts and prayers are with the decedent’s family, and survivors and their families.”

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Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com