Restaurant Manager Dead in Carbon Monoxide Poisoning at Walt Whitman Shops

Steven Nelson, 55, dies from carbon monoxide poisoning; more than two dozen others hospitalized Saturday evening, police say.

Photo Credit: Steve Silverman
Photo Credit: Steve Silverman
A restaurant manager has died and more than two dozen others were hospitalized following a carbon monoxide poisoning incident at the Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station Saturday evening, according to police and fire officials. 

Police responded to the mall around 6:10 p.m. after a report that a woman had fallen and hit her head in the basement of the Legal Sea Foods restaurant, police said. 

When police and emergency personnel arrived on the scene, they soon felt nauseous and dizzy and recognized it as a carbon monoxide event, police said. 

The restaurant was evacuated and police found the general manager of Legal Sea Foods, Steven Nelson, 55, of Copiague, unconscious in the basement. He was transported to Huntington Hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said. 

Twenty-seven other victims, including four ambulance personnel and three police officers, were transported to five area hospitals with non-life threatening symptoms after exposure to the deadly odorless gas, police said.

Most of the victims were employees at Legal Sea Foods and police said the investigation is focusing on the restaurant’s heating equipment.

Legal Sea Foods, The Cheesecake Factory and Panera Bread, which are not connected to the main mall building, were evacuated as a precaution. Police later said the carbon monoxide appeared to be confined to the basement of Legal Sea Foods. 

Newsday reported Sunday that a flue pipe leading from one of the water heaters at the restaurant failed, which led to the carbon monoxide buildup in the basement. There were no carbon monoxide detectors in the restaurant, the report said. 

Legal Sea Foods, which has restaurants in seven states, posted a message on its Facebook page late Saturday night regarding Nelson's death.

"Steve's tragic death is a shock to all of us at Legal Sea Foods," the message reads. "He was one of the finest people we've ever had the pleasure of working with. This is a very sad day."

The Huntington Manor Fire Department and Huntington Community First Aid Squad also responded to the incident at the mall on Walt Whitman Road. Ambulances from fire department rescue squads from Melville, Dix Hills, Greenlawn, Plainview, Syosset, East Farmingdale and Commack transported the victims to the hospital. 

About 100 firefighters and EMS personnel were on the scene with three engines, three heavy rescue trucks and 15 ambulances, officials said. The units were under the command of Huntington Manor Fire Department Chief Fred Steenson Jr., and Assistant Chiefs Frank McQuade, Mike DePasquale and Jon Hoffmann. Suffolk County Fire-Rescue and EMS personnel were also dispatched to provide assistance.

Dan Bod February 22, 2014 at 10:07 PM
We got evacuated from The Cheesecake Factory just as we were done eating dinner.
Rachel February 22, 2014 at 10:51 PM
I'm in shock after hearing this news! Sending my prayers to those affected by this tragedy!
Stephen Grande Jr. February 22, 2014 at 11:04 PM
something similar happened when I was working in roslyn a few years ago. The restaurant next door used gasoline power washers in the basement and the exhaust was leaking into businesses next door and set off our carbon monoxide alarms. we were all very lucky that day!
CommackMom February 23, 2014 at 12:46 AM
Tragic. Thoughts go out to all those involved and affected by this horrific occurrence.
Frankie February 23, 2014 at 06:58 AM
I don't understand the last paragraph If it started in legal seafoods why was it evacuated as a precaution?
Robert Pavelka February 23, 2014 at 07:04 AM
Scene safety
Robert Pavelka February 23, 2014 at 07:46 AM
Thats why ALL first responders should have affordable personal carbon monoxide detectors attached to their gear.
Frankie February 23, 2014 at 07:56 AM
Yes what a tragedy
Nick Nola February 23, 2014 at 08:37 AM
Wasn't there another CO incident at Walt Whitman some time ago
cricket February 23, 2014 at 10:44 AM
Maybe a dumb question but are carbon monoxide detectors required in commercial buildings? I am not making an assumption on whether or not they were installed just asking the question. Such a terrible incident and my heart goes out to the families affected.
WOODY11780 February 23, 2014 at 10:45 AM
During winter months when most doors & windows are closed, & kithen exhaust hood fans are running.... Make up air is needed, because the interior building is in a vacuum. If the make up air is not working, the interior vaccum WILL draw through the heating system's chimney exhaust, sucking CO gasses throughout the entire building......CO detectors are important....The gasses are odorless, & deadly
whodat February 23, 2014 at 11:45 AM
It is amazing that this could happen considering the army of code enforcement officers the town employs. My prayers go out to all who were injured and especially to the Nelson family.
Robert W February 23, 2014 at 11:47 AM
New York State building codes requires carbon monoxide detectors in residences and businesses where people sleep. Legal Seafood doesn't fit in either category. R.I.P. to the manager.
ELLEN CLEARY February 23, 2014 at 12:18 PM
It's hard to believe that carbon monoxide detectors aren't required in restaurants when so often the gas is caused by a faulty oven when it's odorless and tasteless.
John Peters February 23, 2014 at 12:54 PM
We ate at Legal & Panera last week; can't bt
Robert Pavelka February 23, 2014 at 04:32 PM
I suggested awhile ago that Huntington Patch do an investigation into the Fire inspectors office and they disregarded it, now this tragedy happens, I only hope it has nothing to do with my suspicions.
Robert W February 23, 2014 at 11:08 PM
CO2 is carbon dioxide moron. Your joke is tasteless.
Yankee Man February 23, 2014 at 11:14 PM
Yes Robert W....it is also odorless
mary ann February 24, 2014 at 08:29 AM
Condolences to the Nelson family.
LS February 24, 2014 at 01:06 PM
Pay attention to your chimney, and the flue pipes that vent your boiler/furnace and water heater, and your gas clothes dryer. If they are blocked or disconnected, the deadly gas escapes into your home. As Woody11780 stated, that can also happen when windows are closed and exhaust fans are on. A carbon monoxide detector can save your life! And don't depend on service people/repairmen to know this. The oil burner repairman told me not to pay attention to scare stories--this can't happen with an oil burner! He's dead wrong. Do your own research.
Halford February 24, 2014 at 04:07 PM
We have a plug in CO detector...don't want to rely on batteries
Frankie February 24, 2014 at 04:18 PM
Should be batteries and plug in In case the electricity goes out
Kimberly February 24, 2014 at 08:27 PM
This is terrible. How do we get it to be a law that all businesses must have carbon monoxide detectors?
Get Off My Lawn March 13, 2014 at 11:15 AM
....and make all those that vote for it respond with their Fire Departments to the thousands of false alarms they will generate.
Get Off My Lawn March 13, 2014 at 11:17 AM
How has Mankind survived thousands of years with the Nanny State ????? Amazing!!!
Kimberly March 14, 2014 at 12:21 PM
I'm still thinking about this tragedy. It is a requirement that residences and buildings where people sleep have CO2 detectors. What can we do to make it a law for all businesses to have one? Who can we write to?
Robert Pavelka March 14, 2014 at 10:41 PM
Do we need to make another law for something that is common sense. A responsible business owner is all we need not another law. Does the government really need to get involved, another excuse to write a useless summons. That is the problem with this country, too many irresponsible people sitting around waiting for the government to put our hand in the fire, than making it against the law. GMAFB. Put the friggin carbon monoxide detector in your business.
Kimberly March 15, 2014 at 11:33 AM
I understand what you're saying, but if this business had a carbon monoxide detector, a man wouldn't be dead. Obviously business-owners DO need to be told something that should be common sense.
Get Off My Lawn March 15, 2014 at 12:51 PM
And if no one owned cars there would be no deaths from car accidents. Contrary to your brainwashing the government can't keep you safe. They only take your liberty.
Kimberly March 15, 2014 at 01:41 PM
Okay, so you don't know who I should write to then..? Congressperson, etc.


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