Quick acting employer saves 3 from carbon monoxide poisoning

Call it divine intervention, or call it good luck, but it turns out it was a phone call from Rev. Frank Santill of the St. Philip School in Greenville to East Greenwich police that saved the lives of an entire family on Friday.

"Probably within the next minute or hour time frame, it could have been lethal," Lt. Paul Nahrgang with the East Greenwich Police Department said.

It all started at around 10:48 a.m.Friday.

That's when East Greenwich Police received a phone call from the Pastor of St. Philip saying that the principal of the school hadn't shown up for work, and asking if officers could go to her home at 170 Watch Hill Road to check on her.

Lt. Nahrgang said it only took the route officer about four minutes to arrive at the house.

"Officer responded, checked out that residence, knocked on the door, and noticed as he was looking in through the residence's front door, saw that there was a subject laying on the second floor on the stairwell," Lt. Nahrgang said.

And NBC 10 now knows that the resident on the floor was Darlene Walsh, the Principal at St. Philip School in Greenville.

Police said Walsh was suffering from extreme carbon monoxide poisoning.

Thanks to Father Santill's quick thinking, Darlene Walsh, her husband, and her son were all still alive in the house, but just barely.

"We do an area check of the residence to make sure if there is anyone else there, and that's when you know the two subjects, the two male subjects were found in the residence, the same symptoms of the carbon monoxide poisoning ," Lt. Nahrgang said.

In fact, Lt. Nahrgang said the carbon monoxide levels were seven times what a human should breathe in the Walsh home Friday morning.

As of 11 p.m. Friday night, all three of the Walsh family members were still at Kent County Hospital.

"They were close to the lethal effects of having carbon monoxide poisoning. If we weren't responding to the house, if we didn't respond to the house, shortly thereafter, there probably would have been death as a result," the veteran East Greenwich Lt. said.

Lt. Nahrgang said the first responding officer did not hear any audible carbon monoxide alarms going off when he arrived at the home.

Some neighbors took the incident as a wake-up call.

Resident Lou Sardelli said he would be sure to check his smoke and carbon monoxide detectors right away after hearing the story.

"Actually yeah, I will (check my detectors). There are some that plug in (to an outlet) too. I just think it is kind of strange that none of the alarms went off. And I hope for the best for the family you know, even though I don't know them?" Sardelli said.

Daniel Strauss lives just four doors down from the three victims.

Strauss said, "Carbon monoxide poisoning, I know it's a pretty sneaky thing, because it feels like you're just breathing air, but I guess that that's quite surreal, that that sort of thing can happen so close to me. It's crazy."

East Greenwich police said, so far, all indications point to some type of problem with the boiler or heating system in the home, but the case is still very much under investigation by the Rhode Island State Fire Marshal, and building inspector.