24 hospitalized after suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at New York City church

MIDTOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- Two dozen people went to the hospital for suspected carbon monoxide poisoning after they were evacuated from a church in Manhattan.

Firefighters responded to Saint Malachy's Church on West 49th Street in Midtown on Tuesday morning for reported elevated levels of the gas.

The elevated levels of carbon monoxide were first detected in the basement of the church where the nonprofit Encore Community Services offers meals and other assistance to senior citizens.

"The seniors weren't feeling well, a bunch of the staff specifically were passing out and were verbally unresponsive," said Encore Community Services intern Gabrielle Morales.

By the time firefighters arrived, most of the 80 people inside had self-evacuated.

Twenty-four people were said to have minor injuries and were taken to the hospital while one person was treated at the scene for serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

The fire department will remain at the scene until the carbon monoxide levels drop.

"We had elevated levels, they were substantially elevated but they're down to almost acceptable levels now, and we'll remain until they're acceptable levels," Battalion Chief Stephen Spall said.

Activities in the church basement were canceled for the day while those who need medical attention recover.

The cause of the elevated carbon monoxide levels is still under investigation, but the FDNY's initial determination is that the elevated levels were a result of a malfunctioning motor from the stove ventilation hood inside the church's community room.

The kitchen will remain closed Wednesday so Citymeals is planning to hand-deliver a total of 2,600 emergency meals Wednesday morning to those in need within the Midtown area.

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