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Huntington may require carbon monoxide detectors in places of assembly

Legal Sea Foods in the Shops at Walt

Legal Sea Foods in the Shops at Walt Whitman mall is closed Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, for an investigation into why and how the manager Steve Nelson, 55, died and 27 people were sickened by carbon monoxide Saturday evening. Credit: James Carbone

Huntington officials want to craft a local law requiring all places of assembly in town to have operating carbon monoxide detectors, less than two weeks after a leak killed a restaurant manager.

The town board voted 5-0 at Tuesday's meeting to hold a public hearing on April 8 to allow residents to comment about amending town code.

Steven Nelson succumbed to the poisonous gas on Feb. 22 at Legal Sea Foods at the Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station, which did not have a carbon monoxide detector. A faulty flue pipe in the heating system was the cause, according to Huntington Town Chief Fire Marshal Terence McNally.

Several Long Island municipalities, including the Town of Brookhaven and the Village of Farmingdale, have taken similar action since Nelson's death.

The Huntington board also unanimously passed a resolution supporting recently introduced state legislation that would change the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code to create standards for the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in restaurants and other commercial buildings.

"In light of the terrible tragedy at Legal Sea Foods, we want to look to see if we can come up with a law to require carbon monoxide detectors in all places of public assembly, if not to get the state to pass legislation to allow us to do that," town board member Mark Cuthbertson, sponsor of both resolutions, said. "We want to confirm that it's a law we can pass and not run afoul of state building codes."

Carbon monoxide detectors in commercial buildings are not required under state building code. Huntington Town code requires them in residences and places such as hotels and nursing homes.

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said the January 2009 carbon monoxide poisoning death of a Buffalo teenager who died while sleeping at a friend's house resulted in the state requiring carbon monoxide detectors in residences and commercial buildings where people sleep. Amanda's Law, named for Amanda Hansen, took effect in 2010.

"It is unfortunate that it took a tragedy such as this one [at the restaurant] to highlight a gap in state fire code," Petrone said. "This tragedy has made it clear that similar measures are required for all places of assembly to protect employees, first responders and the public."

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