Carbon dioxide leak blamed for death at McDonald's in Georgia

ATLANTA Wed Sep 14, 2011 6:39pm EDT

A U.S. flags flutters in the wind in front of a sign for a McDonald's restaurant in Los Angeles April 4, 2011. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

A U.S. flags flutters in the wind in front of a sign for a McDonald's restaurant in Los Angeles April 4, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

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ATLANTA (Reuters) - Leaking carbon dioxide in the bathroom of a McDonald's restaurant in south Georgia caused the death of an 80-year-old woman last week and sickened nine others, authorities said on Wednesday.

The leak, in a restaurant in Pooler, Georgia, occurred in reinforced plastic tubing that connected the establishment's carbon dioxide cylinder to the soda machines, Pooler Fire Chief Wade Simmons told Reuters.

Investigators testing the line found "very high levels of carbon dioxide getting into the bathroom, in the walls," Simmons said.

The 80-year-old woman from Florida died on Thursday, hours after she was overcome by fumes in the bathroom. She was one of two women whom emergency workers found unconscious there, Simmons said.

A total of 10 people, including three firefighters, went to the hospital after being sickened by the fumes in the bathroom. Simmons said McDonald's employees had no idea the line was leaking.

"The lines go into the walls, and they up go into the ceilings," he said. Similar leaks have occurred at restaurants in other cities, he added.

The Pooler restaurant was reopened after the incident, but the bathroom was sealed during the investigation, the fire chief said. He said he planned to explore new safety measures, such as reinforcing the lines and improving ventilation, to prevent future deaths and injuries.

McDonald's is committed to providing a safe environment for customers, said Lee Renz, chief restaurant officer for McDonald's USA.

"We have safety protocols in place for all of our restaurants," Renz said in a statement. "While this was an isolated set of circumstances, we are investigating this situation and reviewing our procedures, as well as those of our suppliers, to ensure the highest safety of our restaurants."

(Edited by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Johnston)

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Comments (4)
fmvssguy wrote:
With the use of large bottles of carbon dioxide and the associated plumbing along with teenage staff that handle them, people shouldn’t have to worry about sudden death when they go to any restaurant. A CO2 detector costs $20. Watch for legislative action that will be strongly resisted by the restaurant lobby.

Sep 14, 2011 7:04pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
In the meantime one person is dead and many others are sick. I see a massive lawsuit on its way as well as there should be. Responsibility is Mcdonalds. They failed. They pay. God bless the lady lost to their irresposibility.

Sep 14, 2011 7:11pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
AlecSevins wrote:
This puts yet another lie to Michele Bachmann’s “CO2 is natural” comment. Context is everything.

Sep 14, 2011 7:18pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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