A pipe fitter hospitalized following a carbon dioxide release in a utility room that led to the evacuation of a terminal at Los Angeles International Airport remains in a coma, family members said.
Christopher Abraham, a 36-year-old pipe fitter, was working with three others at LAX Monday when he was overcome by carbon dioxide released from a fire suppression system in a room full of electrical equipment. Carbon dioxide is used in the fire suppression system to avoid damaging equipment with water. The odorless, colorless gas displaces oxygen, starving flames.
Family members said they’ve been at Abraham’s bedside since he was transported to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Doctors placed him in a medically induced coma due to seizures, family members said.
“We’re mainly focusing on keeping Chris aware that he’s loved and that we are waiting for him,” uncle Charley Abraham said.
Abraham was one of four workers at LAX exposed to the carbon dioxide. Family members said he was the only person who was unable to escape the underground utility room.
“He made sure his helpers got out, and when they turned back he wasn’t with them in the exit — they looked and he was on the ground,” Charley Abraham said.
The Lomita father wasn’t breathing when firefighters and paramedics arrived. He was hospitalized in grave condition before his condition improved to critical.
Fire authorities are investigating what triggered the fire suppression system. There was no fire in the room.
“He loves his job, he’s good at it, and he’s even better at being a father,” said Charley Abraham. “We really just want to get him back to health.”
As many as 100 passengers were evacuated from nearby Terminal 8 to Terminal 7. There was no danger to the passengers near the baggage claim area in the terminal, which was at least 200 feet away from the electrical room.
The electrical room is subterranean, and carbon dioxide is heavier than air, so all the gas would have sunk rather than rising to the passenger area.