NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A Nissan Altima nearly became a death trap on Thursday afternoon.
Two children were hospitalized, one in critical condition, after being overcome by carbon monoxide gas in the Bronx.
“I found the kids with their mother. They were all on the floor. She was crying ‘help! Help!’” Lamin Kamara told CBS 2′s Hazel Sanchez.
Kamara said he saw his neighbor cleaning off her snow-covered car. The woman placed her 5- and 7-year-old daughters inside the vehicle to stay warm and had no idea snow was blocking the exhaust and endangering her children’s lives.
When the woman opened the door to check on the children, they were unconscious, apparently due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
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Kamara walked up to the car after the mother made the frightening discovery.
“I saw them. They were laying down, like lifeless bodies almost,” Kamara said. “I couldn’t describe it, because I have my own kid.”
It appears that the tailpipe of the car was clogged, and that’s how the carbon monoxide was pushed into the cabin of the vehicle.
The girls were rushed to the hospital. One FDNY team transported the 5-year-old.
“Sometimes whenever the pipe in the back is clogged from the snow all of that carbon monoxide that’s being expelled from the vehicle can actually backfire into the vehicle,” the FDNY’s Daniel Burgos said.
The sisters were being treated in a hyperbaric chamber at Jacobi Medical Center on Thursday night. Pediatrician Dr. Anatoly Belilovsky said they are very lucky to be alive.
“They have more need for oxygen per unit body weight so they would become saturated with carbon monoxide more quickly,” Belilovsky said.
“After that it take literally minutes to die.”
As drivers continue to dig out after Wednesday’s storm emergency responders said the near tragedy is a warning: be sure to clear out your exhaust pipes before you turn your vehicle on.
“At the very least open the windows up somewhat so if there is carbon monoxide getting in the car at least it will escape,” said Michael Miller of the FDNY.