UPDATE: Rural Vergas man who died in CO accident ID'd

The rural Vergas man killed by carbon monoxide gas in his home garage has been identified by a family friend as Tom Elkin, a rural Vergas cabinet maker.

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The rural Vergas man killed by carbon monoxide gas in his home garage has been identified by a family friend as Tom Elkin, a rural Vergas cabinet maker.

According to the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office, a faulty furnace vent is the likely culprit of a build-up of CO gas in the garage which killed Elkin, and sent eight other people, including emergency responders, to the hospital, four of whom were airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center.

“It appears he was doing work on the furnace and may not have had the (safety) equipment installed,” said Lt. Keith Van Dyke, “though we have no way to know for sure.”

As far as Van Dyke knew, everyone who was taken to the hospital was doing OK and several of the victims had been released from medical care facilities.

Elkin was overcome by the poisonous gas in the garage of his home and was found by his wife, who called 911.


“When firefighters, law enforcement and EMS arrived, the deceased’s wife began to show signs of suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning,” Van Dyke said, “and so did the emergency workers. High levels of carbon monoxide were detected and they realized they had a problem, and got out of the house.”

Eight people, including three Perham Area EMS employees, were taken to Perham Health at about 7 p.m. Monday night with symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. The EMS workers and the deceased’s wife were airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center. The other four were kept at Perham Health for observation.

The victims were transferred to Hennepin County Medical Center because the facility is equipped with a hyperbaric chamber, which is needed to treat patients with carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the press release.

Several regional emergency flight services responded to the incident with medical helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, including Sanford Air Care of Fargo, N.D., Valley Med Flight of Grand Forks, N.D. and North Memorial of Brainerd and Bemidji, Minn.

"Our hearts go out to our first responders and their families," stated Perham Health CEO Chuck Hofius in the press release. "Each time EMS personnel go on a call, we know there is risk and worry for their safety. I am so proud of everyone at Perham Health, from the EMS crew on the scene to the staff in the emergency department who responded so quickly, to the many other employees that came in from home to help. They did an incredible job in a very scary situation."

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can be fatal. It is found in fumes produced when fuel is burned in cars, trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can build up in enclosed areas, poisoning people and animals who breathe it in.

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