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Five at residence are tested for carbon monoxide poisoning


Four members of a west Columbia family and a friend were taken to Howard County General Hospital yesterday and tested for suspected carbon monoxide poisoning from a malfunctioning furnace, a county Fire Department spokesman said.

The victims were taken to the hospital about 10:15 a.m. and released after undergoing blood tests to detect the odorless, colorless and tasteless gas, which can be fatal. The tests showed no evidence of carbon monoxide poisoning, said one of the victims, Terry Merrill, 41, yesterday afternoon.

"We're all fine," she said.

Also taken to the hospital were Mrs. Merrill's mother-in-law, Phyllis Merrill, 67; her daughter, Mary Merrill, 21; her son, James Merrill, 17, and his 19-year-old girlfriend, who was not identified.

A friend visiting Mrs. Merrill's home yesterday morning in the 10200 block of Bradley Lane found that the residents were drowsy. Mrs. Merrill called the county poison control center. The center's staff told her to call 911, and a 911 dispatcher sent units to the house.

"We all were drowsy, had headaches and the backs of our throats were burning," Mrs. Merrill said. "We all had black soot coming out of our noses."

Mrs. Merrill said she had been experiencing problems with her oil furnace since about 2 a.m. yesterday. Soot had piled up on the furnace, and the soot and smoke had permeated the house, she said.

At 5 a.m., she called the oil company, whose representative arrived at 9:45 a.m. to check the furnace. Mrs. Merrill called 911 while he was there.

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