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Two improving in Ellicott City carbon monoxide poisoning that left one dead

At the end of the driveway sat two green bags containing copies of The Korea Times — newspapers left untouched at an Ellicott City home where carbon monoxide poisoning left one man dead and two of his family members in the hospital.

Rescuers who arrived late Monday, Aug. 29 on the 2700 block of Old Saint John's Lane found Won Koo Sung, 48, dead in his house. Sung's wife, Young Sin Sung, 47, and his son, Jason Sung, 17, were initially in critical condition at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, police said.

Young Sin Sung had improved to fair condition on Thursday, Sept. 1, and her son, Jason, was upgraded to serious but stable condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The Sungs' house had lost power during Hurricane Irene, and police investigators believe the poisoning was caused by a generator that had been set up in an attached garage. The generator's knob was in the "on" position; its gas tank was empty, police said.

The Sungs' 19-year-old daughter had been staying with a friend elsewhere. She told investigators that her family's home had been without power since Sunday, Aug. 28 and that she'd last spoken with her mother late that afternoon, police said.

She was unable to reach her family Monday and went to the house at about 10:45 p.m., where she found her mother unconscious and called 911.

Nobody answered the door Tuesday. Among the vehicles parked outside were a pickup truck and a dump truck bearing the name of Sung Construction, a roofing, siding and window company Won Koo Sung had operated from his home.

A tree leaned on nearby power lines. Neighbors reported that power was still out. A home a few doors down from the Sungs' house still had a generator outside.

The Sungs were quiet and largely kept to themselves, but next-door neighbor Debbie Nesbitt said a couple times a year Won Koo Sung would come over, say he was taking his family on vacation and ask her to keep an eye on his house. When the family returned, Sung would bring her a souvenir as a token of thanks.

A carbon monoxide alarm in the house had dead batteries, police said. A fire department carbon monoxide detector showed a high reading for the amount of gas in the air.

"We haven't seen this kind of situation in Howard County very often," police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said. "We know that it does happen following disasters and weather events around the country."

In the wake of the tragedy, police and fire officials are reminding people never to use generators or other devises that use gasoline, propane or charcoal inside a home — or even outside near an open window. They also reminded people to have at least one working carbon monoxide detector and to check its batteries at least twice a year.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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