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Officials: Damaged exhaust vent caused carbon monoxide leak in potato cellar

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The carbon monoxide incident happened at Ball Bros. Produce Thursday afternoon. | Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com.

LEWISVILLE — A damaged exhaust vent caused a massive amount of carbon monoxide to fill a potato cellar Thursday afternoon resulting in the hospitalization of 17 people, fire officials said.

All but one of the patients have been released from Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, spokeswoman Coleen Neimann said. The remaining patient is in fair condition.

Multiple ambulances responded to Ball Bros. Produce at 508 N. 3470 East around 3:30 p.m. after several employees complained of feeling ill.

“We’ve learned a large piece of ice slid off the roof of the potato cellar the day before and damaged an exhaust vent on a gas heater,” Central Fire Assistant Chief Carl Anderson told EastIdahoNews.com on Friday. “That resulted in gas going into the building rather than exiting the cellar.”

RELATED | 17 PEOPLE HOSPITALIZED AFTER CARBON MONOXIDE REPORTED AT POTATO CELLAR

Anderson said a Ball Produce manager called an Intermountain Gas worker after one employee complained of difficulty breathing. The gas worker arrived and learned there was a high level of carbon monoxide in the building.

Idaho Falls EMS Chief Eric Day told EastIdahoNews.com on Thursday that initial tests indicated carbon monoxide levels of 20 to 30 parts per million. A normal, healthy level is 0 parts per million.

The cellar has been aired out, and crews are checking and making repairs on all of the heaters Friday, Anderson said.

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