LANGSTON, Okla. (KFOR) – As Langston University students continue to recover from being hospitalized due to carbon monoxide poisoning, the university maintains it was not due to a leak at the apartment complex, but students are now shedding light on what could have caused the issue.
After News 4 reached out for an update, Langston officials say they’re “…continuing to investigate…” and they maintain “…several inspections have been conducted and no evidence of a natural gas or carbon monoxide leak was detected in the building.”
Oklahoma Natural Gas has also sent a statement to KFOR, saying they “…Responded to the site and completed an investigation, which found no issues at the site.”
However, News 4 has confirmed at least eight students were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.
Jamaryon Deal and Quanyei Johnson were in the apartments that night and say they think an issue with the heat could have been the culprit.
“Somebody kept asking who turned on the heat,” Johnson said. “Basically after that whoever was asking who turned on the heat kept going to the thermostat trying to turn on the air.”
Deal says the hot air was coming into the living room, the bedrooms and the hallway.
“It wouldn’t turn off it was steadily just going ‘psssss.'”
They say it was so hot they had to go outside. When they returned, a calm get together turned to a dire situation.
“I started to notice people were on the floor passed out,” Deal said. “I think I passed out about five times and I had three seizures.”
KFOR obtained video of multiple students having to be dragged outside, many of them not appearing conscious.
Claud Draybek with Draybeck & Hill Air Conditioning and Heating says that’s a clear indication of an issue.
“If it’s coming out and cant stop and the thermostat isn’t turning it off after it hits that there’s something else wrong,” he said.
Draybek explained the biggest issues you have to be aware of.
“Our biggest fear is improper combustion because if you have improper combustion you have carbon monoxide forming.”
He says improper combustion is when you have a fuel mix with the oxygen, creating a potentially hazardous situation. He adds that issues could be caused by a stopped-up flue vent, and it’s at least plausible the recent storms played a part.
“Right now we’re finding a lot of flue vents that are broken because of the wind damage and the hailstorms,” Draybek said.
Benny Fulkerson with the Oklahoma City Fire Department says it would be difficult for anyone to detect the gas if they didn’t have the proper equipment.
“Carbon monoxide, you have to understand, is colorless, it’s odorless,” he said. “You don’t know it’s there until sometimes it’s too late.”
He agrees a heating system could cause issues if it malfunctions.
“If it’s a heating system that’s burning natural gas or if it’s a propane system, any fuel that’s burning,” he said. “If they’re burning inefficiently and not working properly, [they] can produce carbon monoxide.”
Fulkerson says it’s possible any monitors could fail to alert residents if it hasn’t been recently inspected or replaced.
“Carbon monoxide alarms like smoke alarms can fail,” he said. “They have to be maintained and they have to be maintained very well to make sure that they will work the way that they’re supposed to when they’re supposed to.”
He says this is a good reminder for others to make sure they’re constantly monitoring and cleaning their carbon monoxide detector.
“You actually need to dust them from time to time because the sensors can get dirty,” he said. “More important than anything, [make] sure you test them every month.”