Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Co Poisoning Possible Factor in Deaths

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Co Poisoning Possible Factor in Deaths

Article excerpt

How a North Jersey couple found Sunday in a car in a garage died will not be officially known for weeks, but the circumstances -- spent gas and battery, enclosed space and no visible signs of trauma -- may suggest the two died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The buildup of exhaust can often be lethal, experts say, sometimes knocking victims unconscious within minutes before they realize what's happening.

"Once they lose consciousness, they can't protect themselves unless someone finds them," said Tae Keun Park, an emergency medicine physician at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck.

Melissa Pereira, 25, of Wayne and Jorge Rodriguez, 24, of Garfield weren't found by police until three weeks after they disappeared on Dec. 27. Their bodies were discovered Sunday inside the garage Pereira's family leased at their Wayne garden apartment complex.

Authorities won't say how they died pending release of the medical examiner's report, but several law enforcement officers who asked not to be identified said the circumstances point to carbon monoxide.

The medical examiner is expected to release toxicology reports in two or three weeks, said Michael DeMarco, a chief assistant prosecutor at the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office.

Car exhaust building up in an enclosed space can kill within hours, doctors say, and can render a person unconscious in minutes. Typical symptoms of nausea, headaches, lethargy, abdominal pain, tingling in fingers and dizziness won't necessarily wake a victim who has already lost consciousness.

"You're slowly getting poison in your sleep," said Park, the Holy Name doctor. "Your oxygen levels start to fall and you get into a coma."

"You can lose consciousness within 30 minutes to an hour," said Dr. Carmine Gianatiempo of the Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, adding the speed would depend on how quickly carbon monoxide levels rose. He said a common cause of carbon monoxide poisoning is falling asleep to fumes from kerosene lamps.

"If they remained in a closed space, most likely they would die within a few hours," he said.

Pereira and Rodriguez were found around 10:30 a. …

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