Frightful weather creates uncommon hazards locally

By CHRIS JACKETT
Times-Herald Newspapers

A series of unusual events have struck Dearborn and Dearborn Heights during the past two weeks.

As a result of the Dec. 12 snowstorm that blanketed the Midwest, a 49-year-old Dearborn man was the victim of a snow-shoveling incident Dec. 13. He was taken to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and died the same day.

It was one of eight snow-clearing-related deaths reported in the state, although the Dearborn man was the youngest of the four men who died in the southeastern Michigan tri-county area.

The same day, two houses whose residents were trying to keep warm ended up causing injuries that could have been fatal.

Four Heights residents on Sheahan needed medical treatment after carbon monoxide filled their house the morning of Dec. 13.

A married couple and their two children were found unconscious on the ground after paramedics responded to a call from the residents’ neighbor, who went over to the house after he had received a call from the mother as she was passing out. The neighbor realized it was carbon monoxide poisoning and opened the doors and windows of the house before emergency responders arrived.

Reports indicate the odorless gas had built up to five times beyond safe levels as a result of problems with the residents’ furnace, hot water heater and wood-burning stove.

Later that evening, about 8 p.m., a garage was destroyed on Ross, near Westwood in Dearborn, when a 100-pound propane tank exploded.

Audible from more than a mile away, the explosion knocked three houses off their foundations and shattered the windows of several others. Only one person was nonfatally injured and transported to a nearby hospital.

The series of weather- and heat-related occurrences followed a mild scare about 2:30 p.m. Dec. 10 at the Severstal steel plant, 3001 Miller Road in Dearborn.

Five workers were burned while working near the basic oxygen furnace. Two were treated and released at the scene. Two others were taken to Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center and the fifth was taken to Detroit Receiving Hospital.

The incident is not the first at Severstal. Firefighters had to contain a fire in the plant’s molten steel pit in June, and a building on the property partially collapsed in December 2008. No one was hurt during either of those instances, but the plant received 152 citations for poor safety following a Michigan Occupational Safety & Health Administration inspection in 2008.

Many of the issues were addressed in 2009 and dealt with since, according to other published reports.

(Contact Chris Jackett at cjackett@bewickpublications.com)