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Faulty restaurant carbonation machine causes carbon dioxide poisoning

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A restaurant employee remains hospitalized after a freak accident involving carbon dioxide poisoning at a Rochester bar and grill.

KTTC reports that police were called to Rooster’s Barn & Grill on Monday morning, where they found 63-year-old Jerry Johnson, who had been discovered in the building's basement. Police say that the carbonation machine that puts the fizz into the restaurant's soda pop machine and powers the bar taps had malfunctioned and filled the basement with carbon dioxide. When Johnson walked into that part of the building, he collapsed.

KAAL reports that fellow employees noticed a “hissing” sound coming from the basement and when they entered that part of the building, they found Johnson unresponsive. KIMT in Mason City, Iowa added that several of Johnson's co-workers and patrons of the bar tried to shut off the CO2 tanks but turned around when they began having trouble breathing and then called 911.

Officers drew a distinction between carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.
"Carbon dioxide is much less hazardous, however carbon dioxide does displace oxygen in an enclosed environment," said Rochester Deputy Fire Chief Vance Swisher Swisher. "This was a system that was designed to carbonize the beverages within the establishment. It had a leak, displaced the oxygen, this person was in that environment."

Firefighters had to use breathing tanks while inside the restaurant. They shut off all the CO2 cylinders and vented the area with power blowers until the oxygen levels were restored to normal. The business has been directed to have a technician inspect and repair the CO2 system.

Johnson was listed in serious condition at Saint Mary's in Rochester.
KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

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