By Ann McCreary
Five employees of Carlos1800 Mexican Grill and Cantina in Winthrop were overcome by carbon monoxide and were airlifted for medical treatment on Saturday (March 7).
Aero Methow Rescue Service responded to a 911 call about 11:30 a.m. and found the employees to have “altered levels of consciousness” when the responders arrived at the restaurant, said paramedic Vikki Buzzard.
“They were able to talk and their vitals were stable,” Buzzard said. “One was more unresponsive but still breathing.”
Aero Methow gave the patients “high-flow oxygen” and arranged transport with Northwest MedStar, an air medical transport service, from the North Cascades Smokejumper Base to Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee.
Three helicopters carried one patient each, and two patients were transported in a fixed-wing aircraft, Buzzard said.
“From the time it was determined it was carbon monoxide poisoning to when we had the patients out, it was about 90 minutes,” Buzzard said.
Buzzard said the patients were then transferred to a Seattle hospital capable of treating carbon monoxide poisoning. In serious cases, patients may require treatment in a hyperbaric chamber. No hospitals in north central Washington have hyperbaric chambers.
A Central Washington Hospital spokesperson said she could not provide information regarding where patients were transferred.
Buzzard said Monday (March 9) that she had heard “all but one had been released” by Sunday.
Carbon monoxide poisoning causes damage at a cellular level, Buzzard said. “That’s why everyone has to be taken to a larger hospital immediately,” she said.
Crews from Okanogan Fire District 6 responded to the call. “What caused the buildup [of carbon monoxide], I don’t know,” said Chief Don Waller.
The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause unconsciousness or death.