5 sickened by carbon monoxide while cleaning Polk restaurant

BARTOW, Fla. (WFLA) — Five men who were cleaning a Polk County restaurant wound up in the hospital on Monday after chemicals and a gas-operated pressure washer created dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

Emergency crews responded to the Catfish Country Restaurant located at 2400 E. Griffin Rd. around 2:42 p.m.

“All of the patients had been using chemicals to clean inside the restaurant,” said Polk County Fire Rescue Spokesperson Kevin Watler.

Firefighters say the workers created a dangerous situation.

“Chemicals and a gas-operated pressure washer were used inside the structure to clean. We also noticed a strong odor of exhaust at the doorway. Crews found levels to be more than 500 parts per million. Anything over 50 parts per million is considered to be hazardous. This could have been much worse.”

William Houvardas, 36, Georgios Markopoulos, 23, of Winter Haven, and Eusebio Bardales-Hernandez, 26, of Lakeland were taken to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center. They are all employees of the restaurant.

News Channel 8 spoke with the owner of the restaurant Tuesday, and confirmed he was also one of the men taken to the hospital.  “We just got released. They were monitoring us. We are all ok, I just feel tired,” he said.

Margarito Espinosa, 36, and Lee Burney, 33, of Lake Wales, drove themselves to Lake Wales Medical Center, according to Carrie Horstman, Polk County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson. The men were hired to help clean the restaurant.

The building was cleared by the PCFR Special Operations Unit after it was ventilated for about an hour. As of Tuesday, the restaurant was open for business.

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