John Yates and his girlfriend, Lori Blackwell, were looking forward to a peaceful week at Blackwell’s time-share unit in Ogunquit, walking on the town’s deserted beaches and visiting museums and shops in Portland.

The couple arrived from Connecticut at the InnSeasons Resort – The Falls at Ogunquit on Friday, and had dinner Saturday night at an Italian restaurant.

Around 2:30 a.m. Sunday, Yates got out of bed to go to the bathroom. On his way back, he lost consciousness and fell with “full force” onto a bedside table, he said, breaking his nose.

“Everything went pitch black,” Yates, 62, said in a telephone interview Wednesday night.

Blackwell said she awoke to Yates’ cries.

After putting an ice pack on his nose and cleaning the blood off his face, Blackwell apparently passed out. She woke up on the floor beside her bed.


“The next thing I know I am face-down on the floor. I hear John say, ‘Lori, please get up!’ ” she said. “He had been calling for me three or four times, with no response. He then reached down and grabbed my arm and pulled me up to the bed. I had a massive headache in the front of my head. We thought maybe it was food poisoning,” Blackwell wrote in an email describing their ordeal.

Their symptoms were actually the beginning stages of carbon monoxide poisoning, which fire officials said could have been fatal.

Yates and Blackwell were among seven guests at the resort who were hospitalized Sunday and treated for carbon monoxide poisoning. A total of 21 people at the resort on Route 1 were sickened by carbon monoxide – an odorless, colorless and lethal gas.

Ogunquit Fire Chief Mark O’Brien said none of the 77 rooms in the resort’s four buildings had carbon monoxide detectors. Only one building, where Yates and Blackwell were staying, was affected by the gas leak.

A desk clerk at the resort notified authorities late Sunday morning, after several guests reported nausea, lightheadedness and vomiting. Tests detected levels of carbon monoxide at 300 parts per million. A level of 35 parts per million triggers a detector.

O’Brien said carbon monoxide leaked from the building’s basement to 12 rooms above after a joint between two pipes that vent exhaust from one of two propane furnaces separated.


“We were really, really sick,” Yates said. “And we were blaming it on everything except the real cause.”

Fire officials said guests started getting sick on Saturday, but with few places to gather – the resort does have an indoor swimming pool – most stayed in their rooms and blamed their illness on food poisoning or the flu.

Yates’ broken nose may have saved his life, and Blackwell’s.

After his fall, Yates said, he kept an ice pack on his nose, his chin and his jaw, and it kept him awake for the rest of the night.

“I wouldn’t let myself fall asleep for very long because I didn’t want to leave the ice pack on any one spot for very long,” Yates said. “The pain kept me awake, and the fear. I kept saying to myself, ‘How on earth did I fall and hit my nose that hard?’ ”

Blackwell, 53, dozed off, but not for long. She said she was too worried to sleep, and kept waking up to ask if Yates was OK.


They forced themselves to take showers because the sheets and pillows were covered with blood. Yates was so faint that he ended up sitting on the floor of the shower.

When Blackwell went into the kitchen to make a yogurt protein shake to help settle Yates’ stomach, she became faint and had to sit down and put her head between her knees.

“I kept thinking, ‘What’s wrong with me? John is the one that broke his nose,’ ” Blackwell said.

After a long and troubled night, Blackwell and Yates went to the front desk of the resort to ask where they could buy Arnica, a homeopathic remedy to ease swelling and pain. She told the clerk what had happened to them.

“If the sheets hadn’t been bloodied, we would have slept in … we would not have gotten up, as we were lethargic, dizzy and feeling unwell,” she said.

The couple drove to a pharmacy and bought pain medication. When they returned to the resort, they saw ambulances.


“The desk clerk figured it out after I left,” Blackwell said.

“He’s a hero because he put it all together,” Yates said.

Yates and Blackwell were found to have high levels of carbon monoxide in their blood – after an hour outdoors in fresh air – and were taken to Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford, where they received oxygen treatment. They spent four hours at the hospital.

After being released, they moved to a hotel in Wells – and plugged in the new carbon monoxide detector they had bought at a local hardware store.

Their recovery has been slower than they anticipated. On Wednesday, they said they were still feeling shaky, weak, tired and emotionally drained. They plan to return home to Connecticut on Saturday.

They said they are grateful to be alive and hope that, by sharing their story, they might save someone’s life.


“Though the resort may not have broken any law under the Maine Building Codes, our personal opinion is that all buildings and all homes in all states should be required to install detectors for the well being of their own families, guests, tenants and occupants,” Blackwell and Yates said in an email. Yates builds homes for a living.

Ogunquit Town Manager Thomas Fortier said he will make a proposal at Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting that the board vote on a non-binding proclamation or pass an ordinance requiring carbon monoxide detectors in all rooms in all hotels, motels, inns and bed and breakfasts in town.

Fortier said there are 4,500 guest rooms in Oqunquit. Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. in the town office.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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