4 animals dead, 5 people hospitalized after carbon monoxide leak at apartment complex

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — More than 250 people who live in The Venue apartments were forced to find somewhere else to stay Tuesday night after dangerous levels of carbon monoxide were found inside the building.

The gas leak was reported around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, killing three dogs and one cat and sending five people, including a firefighter, to the hospital, officials said.

On Tuesday afternoon, residents said it started off with instant panic.

“I heard my neighbor. She started yelling, ‘My dogs are dead, my dogs are dead.’ She starts banging on the walls, saying ‘Something is wrong with the apartment. Everybody get out!’” said resident Yadi Garcia.

She said that was followed by a text from the leasing office that read: “EVERYONE PLEASE EVACUATE THE BUILDING.”

“I was at work, I got a text that said to evacuate the building, got home, this was going on. No one knew what was happening,” said Gaton Berry, who has lived in the apartments for three years.

Crews from the Memphis Fire Department responded to a gas leak at The Venue apartments on Central Avenue on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022.

A spokesperson with the Memphis Fire Department said the call originally came in as a first responder call.

“The firefighters got inside and one of our firefighters started to feel ill with a shortness of breath. They also noticed a few deceased animals in the building. That’s when they notified for more help and this became a HAZMAT scene,” said Qwanesha Ward with Memphis Fire.

She said it is believed that the carbon monoxide leak may have started from a boiler that was being repaired.

“We had four civilians transported and one firefighters transported, non-critical at this time,” she said. “We had three dogs and one cat deceased.”

As it got dark outside, firefighters were seen going in and out of the building opening windows, searching and bringing out pets for some people.

For others, the wait to find out the fate of their pets had them on edge.

“I have two cats upstairs, some people have gotten their dogs but cats aren’t easy to get,” said Berry.

MFD said Tuesday night that residents would be allowed back inside their homes once they are secured again. Some of the doors of the apartment complex were forced opened as firefighters searched the building, MFD said.

On Wednesday morning, tenants were allowed to start returning to their apartments around 7 a.m.

On Wednesday afternoon, Pam Anderson of Stella Maris Property Management, which oversees operations at The Venue, said that the gas was turned off in the building to determine what caused the leak.

“This is a very active investigation but our main concern is for the safety of our residents,” Anderson said in a statement. “We will turn the gas back on once we have been told that it is safe to do so.”