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Panera Bread workers sickened by carbon monoxide, cops say

Suffolk County police said a carbon monoxide leak

Suffolk County police said a carbon monoxide leak forced employees to evacuate the Panera Bread at the Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station at about 8 a.m. on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Credit: Steve Pfost

A carbon monoxide leak early Wednesday forced employees to evacuate the Panera Bread restaurant at the Walt Whitman Shops, including seven who were taken to the hospital after feeling ill, Suffolk County police said.

The leak originated from an adjoining unit under construction at the mall in Huntington Station — the same unit where two years ago carbon monoxide from a faulty vent pipe killed a Legal Sea Foods restaurant manager.

Police said the seven who felt ill after leaving Panera Bread at about 8 a.m., before it opened to the public, went by ambulance to Huntington Hospital. Each was treated and released, hospital spokeswoman Alexandra Zendrian said.

The Huntington Manor Fire Department found that the leak was from a piece of machinery whose exhaust was being vented in the unit next door to the Panera Bread restaurant.

On Feb. 22, 2014, carbon monoxide from a faulty pipe on a water heater at a Legal Sea Foods in that unit killed Steven Nelson, 55, of Copiague, one of the restaurant’s managers, and sickened employees and rescuers.

At the time, the restaurant did not have carbon monoxide detectors and was not required by law to have them.

Prompted in part by the Legal Sea Foods incident, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in late 2014 signed a law requiring restaurants to have carbon monoxide detectors.

In an email to Newsday, a spokeswoman for Panera Bread praised the efforts of police and the Huntington Manor firefighters.

She said the issue was discovered at 8:15 a.m. and the seven employees were cleared at the scene but taken to the hospital as a precaution. The restaurant reopened at noon.

Huntington Town spokesman A.J. Carter said the town issued summonses to Shawmut Construction, the general contractor on the renovation of the unit next to Panera, and to the subcontractor, Black Hawk Industries, “for creating a dangerous and unsafe condition.”

The violation is punishable by a fine of $500 to $2,000.

The companies were directed to appear next month in Suffolk County district court. Company officials could not be reached for comment.

With Deborah S. Morris

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