TRIBECA — A basement boiler leaking carbon monoxide sickened 32 people, including workers in a local supermarket, and caused evacuations to several neighborhood apartment buildings Tuesday morning, officials said.
A boiler's broken pipe in 60 Murray St., near West Broadway, started spewing the noxious gas about 8:28 a.m., causing several clerks in the Amish Market to pass out, and a total of 32 people to get sick in total, witnesses and officials said.
Amish Market Director Mike Jording, 65, said he grew concerned when he went down to the basement to see why one of his prep workers had fainted.
"When I got to the bottom of the steps my other manager, who was tending to that lady, fainted also, and at that split second somebody else fainted right behind me and I knew it was carbon monoxide. I knew right off the bat," said Jording, who spoke to reporters outside the shop Tuesday.
"So I told everybody, 'Get up, get out, get out of the basement right away. I called upstairs to another manager, I said 'lock the doors, funnel the customers out for their safety and all the employees that were upstairs'."
"When you see three people, four people, drop right in front of you the symptoms are carbon monoxide. And I didn't smell nothing. I don't feel nothing. When someone's talking to you and the next minute he's on the floor I knew I had to get everybody out."
Jording said he was scared, but knew instantly what he had to do.
"I love my people and would do anything for my people. I'm in charge. The captain don't leave the ship," he said, ordering an immediate evacuation while he shuttled up and down the stairs bringing passed-out victims to safety before officials arrived.
Firefighters arrived to find about four people lying unconscious in the basement and ground floor and about 13 others drifting in and out of consciousness, officials said.
Workers initially thought the wave of faintings were tied to a box of salad bowls from Brooklyn that one of them had opened in the market's basement and spewed some kind of powder, officials said.
"One of the workers, a male worker, was opening up the box and about 10 feet away there was a female worker by the bathroom that fainted. He associated her fainting with the opening of that box, not knowing it was actually carbon monoxide," said NYPD's Chief of Manhattan Detectives William Aubry.
But the NYPD's bomb squad and emergency services quickly determined that it posed no threat and people were fainting because of the carbon monoxide leak, officials said.
FDNY meters can measure carbon monoxide levels, but the levels in the building exceeded their meters, according to Chief James Leonard.
Thirty-two people were treated at Bellevue and Lower Manhattan hospitals, where they were treated for injuries that weren't considered life threatening, officials said. Several blocks were cordoned off and the adjacent building at 53 Park Place was also evacuated.
"The injuries are all relatively minor," Leonard said.
About 106 firefighters responded to the scene to try to bring the situation under control by about 11 a.m., officials said.
The building's boiler was last inspected in August 2016, according to the Department of Buildings website.
An Amish Market spokesman, who gave his name only as Pat, said they've complained about "several maintenance issues" before and added that the boiler was compromised.
"The boiler in the basement of the building has a complete crack in it and our kitchen is next to that boiler. And that seems to be the problem," Pat said, adding that the Amish Market staff doesn't have access to the boiler.
The gas reached up to the third floor, but had dissipated by 11 a.m., allowing people to return inside again, officials said.
"The pipe has been capped. The CO has been dropping. We just went under control," Leonard said.
"It was a very systematic and professional operation by both the FDNY and NYPD who worked very closely together in this very unusual situation to mitigate this problem," Leonard said.