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February 19, 2014

Authorities investigate Plaistow CO deaths

Fourth person found unconscious

PLAISTOW — Three people are dead, a fourth hospitalized, after a furnace malfunctioned and filled their home with carbon monoxide.

Police and rescue personnel responded to a home at 5 Center Circle about 11:30 a.m. yesterday, finding an unidentified woman and two men unresponsive and a third man unconscious, Plaistow fire Chief John McArdle said.

All four appeared to have been in bed sleeping when they were overcome by the deadly gas, he said. Their names and ages had not been released as of last night.

A carbon monoxide detector in a first-floor hallway was inoperable because it did not have batteries, McArdle said. One bedroom was on the first floor and two others were on the second floor, he said. The victims were in those three bedrooms.

The third man was rushed to Lawrence General Hospital, then transferred by ambulance to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston for treatment, McArdle said. The man’s medical condition was unavailable last night.

McArdle said police received a call yesterday morning from someone concerned that no one was answering phone calls at the home.

The deaths were linked to the propane-fired heating system in the basement, McArdle said. It was not known why or when the furnace malfunctioned, he said.

State Fire Marshal William Degnan was called in to investigate.

The deaths sent shock waves throughout the community.

Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said police notified him about the incident shortly after the deaths were discovered.

“Obviously, we are very heartbroken and saddened by this tragedy,”he said. “It’s a very tight-knit neighborhood. It will be a tough loss for the town.”

Town assessment records show the home is owned by Kirk Walsh.

Neighbor Gail Vaughn of 9 Center Circle said she was surprised to receive a call at work from her 12-year-old son, who was dismissed from school early because of the snowstorm.

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