|By Kevin Amerman, The Morning Call,
Allentown, Pa.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 29, 2008 - --The Maryland man woke up in his Upper Macungie Township hotel room to his pounding heart and clouded mind. Jason Hannah paced around the room about 6:15 a.m., feeling sick, unaware that some other guests were even worse off.
Falling deeper into a haze, Hannah couldn't open the latch on his door, and after sniffing air from the hallway, he called a colleague who also was staying at the Best Western Allentown Inn & Suites on W. Tilghman Street. The co-worker, Lawson Kilburn, saw Hannah shaking uncontrollably on the floor and had the front desk call for an ambulance.
Later, while Hannah was at the hospital, Kilburn phoned him with urgent information: Hannah had been poisoned by carbon monoxide, and the man in the room next door, later identified as 63-year-old Philip D. Prechtel, had died that day, Jan. 18.
The scenario is detailed in a lawsuit filed by Hannah and his wife, Mary, in U.S. District Court against the hotel's owner, two contractors who were doing work there and two other companies.
Authorities have said workers for Martin Plastering Contractors of Terre Hill, Lancaster County, set up a plastic canopy along the wall of the hotel on Jan. 17 to allow stucco to dry, and the canopy allowed carbon monoxide from the hotel's hot water heaters to accumulate and seep into some rooms.
Named as defendants in the suit are Martin Plastering; Advanced Building Systems of Reading, the general contractor for the stucco work; KMD Hospitality Corp. of Allentown, which owns the Best Western; PSE of Bethlehem, which serviced the hotel's hot water heaters; and A.P. Merkel of Fleetwood, which designed the hot water heaters.
No one from the businesses could be reached for comment Friday.
It's the second federal lawsuit stemming from the poisonings. The other, a wrongful death suit, was filed in July by Prechtel's widow and names the same defendants.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Martin Plastering $2,300 in March.
The latest suit, filed Nov. 19 by attorney Timothy T. Stevens of Allentown, says Hannah continues to endure pain and suffering and emotional distress. It asks for an unspecified amount for lost wages, punitive damages and medical bills.
The suit claims Martin Plastering was negligent for erecting the tent. Advanced Building Systems failed to properly supervise the work and the hotel failed to inspect it and should have had carbon monoxide detectors in its rooms.
It also says PSE and A.P. Merkel failed to warn about the dangers of the carbon monoxide the hot water heaters spewed.
An hour after an ambulance came to assist Hannah, there was a report of two unconscious people inside the hotel, and that set off a "mass casualty incident" response by emergency workers.
Hannah, of Perry Hall, Md., was one of 10 people hospitalized. Prechtel's wife, Katherine, a longtime Allentown School District teacher, was found unconscious.
The Prechtels lived in Hilton Head, S.C., and were in the area to attend the christening of their granddaughter. Philip Prechtel, a former Lower Macungie Township resident and retired PPL engineer, was declared dead at the hotel.
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