Teenager helps save 11 lives after carbon monoxide scare near Düsseldorf

A 15-year-old girl jumped into action and helped save 11 people, after a carbon monoxide poisoning scare was sparked when a charcoal barbecue grill was brought into a home.

Teenager helps save 11 lives after carbon monoxide scare near Düsseldorf
File photo of a barbecue in a park in Leipzig during summer. Photo: DPA.
The incident happened in Mönchengladbach, near Düsseldorf, in North Rhine-Westphalia at the weekend, as a family and their friends celebrated together, RP Online reported. 
At around midnight on Saturday, a guest had brought the charcoal grill from outside into the living room to provide some warmth because the heating in the house wasn't working. 
When those celebrating, including four children between the ages of two and seven, went to sleep, the residual heat from the grill began spreading toxic gases.
The fire brigade's measurements of the gases in the morning revealed that the concentration of carbon monoxide (CO) in the house was so high that it was only possible to enter the house wearing breathing apparatus. 
Fortunately, the 15-year-old daughter of the homeowners got up on Sunday morning in time to save everyone's lives, the fire brigade said later. 
The girl woke up everyone in the house and found everyone was suffering from the same symptoms, including nausea, headaches and dizziness.
She ran to a neighbour who immediately alerted the fire brigade shortly after 9:15 a.m. on Sunday. Emergency services deployed vehicles and two rescue helicopters due to the large number of casualties.
The detached house was immediately evacuated. “All the people were still responsive and could stand on their feet,” said the emergency operations director.
Of the 12 people involved, two were slightly injured while the others were more severely affected. Two members of the group “showed extreme symptoms,” said the operations director.
According to police, the 28-year-old guest who brought the barbecue grill into the house is the most severely injured.
Several people were flown by rescue helicopters to Düsseldorf and Aachen, where they were placed in high pressure chambers, which force oxygen into the body. The others were also sent to hospitals.
“The people were very lucky,” said the fire chief. The 28-year-old guest, who brought the barbecue into the house, could now possibly face criminal charges for negligent bodily injury.
Not the only incident
The accident in Mönchengladbach was not the only carbon monoxide incident at the weekend in North Rhine-Westphalia.
A family in Gelsenkirchen suffered CO poisoning, which was likely due to a defective heating system.
Firefighters had found a 10-year-old boy unconscious in his parents' apartment on Saturday and had taken him together with his mother to a hospital with a high pressure chamber. Four other relatives also received medical treatment.

Measurements had shown a significantly increased CO concentration in the apartment.
It was initially unclear where the gas was coming from; however, the fire brigade reported that there were later indications of a defect in the heating system. The system was turned off and the house ventilated.

Meanwhile, a barbecue evening for a family in Münster on Friday also ended in several hospital visits.
The barbecue was on the balcony in front of the living room. Toxic carbon monoxide entered the apartment through the door and spread throughout the house.
Several residents complained of nausea and dizziness. A total of 9 people were taken to hospital for treatment. 

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Why are some parts of Germany still not vaccinating people in their 60s?

Germany has no doubt accelerated its vaccine rollout. But despite the progress, some people in priority groups - such as the over 60s - are still not getting their jab in some parts of the country.

Why are some parts of Germany still not vaccinating people in their 60s?
People queuing at a a special vaccination campaign at the Ditib Central Mosque in the Ehrenfeld district of Cologne. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Henning Kaiser

After a painfully slow start, Germany ramped up its vaccination campaign, breaking European records on the number of shots administered to people in one day.

Yet despite all of this, there appears to be a lottery on where things are moving quicker in the country.

Now as Germany gets ready to lift the priority list on June 7th – meaning that all adults will be able to apply for a vaccine appointment, no matter their age, health condition or job – there are worries that not all members of risk groups are being vaccinated.

Although Dortmund, in North Rhine-Westphalia, has opened up vaccination appointments for priority group 3, people aged 60-69, who are also in this group, are not able to book an appointment at a vaccination centre.

They have been invited to “special vaccination” drives using the AstraZeneca vaccine on certain days in April and May but according to Dortmund’s city vaccination plan, this offer has now ended. They were generally available on a first-come-first-served basis and ran out quickly.

“As soon as further vaccine for this group is made available, further appointments may be booked,” says the plan.

Dortmund city’s vaccination plan shows that over 60s in priority group 3 are currently not able to make an appointment. Screenshot from

That’s the case despite over 60s being able to access a vaccine in many other parts of the country, including Berlin and Baden-Württemberg.

The Local Germany reader Richard, who is 65 and has lived in the Dortmund area since 1999, said he was concerned that people in this age group were being forgotten.

Although priority groups should be able to book a vaccine appointment with their GP, or another doctor, many GPs are not carrying out vaccinations or giving out appointments. 

Richard said his doctor told him it wasn’t possible for him to make a vaccination appointment until mid-June when everyone can apply.

“I have followed the requirements and requests of the government in patiently waiting my turn, but with this opening up of applications to everyone on June 7th, I feel that my being a good citizen and not trying to jump the queue as many people have has been thrown back in my face,” he told The Local.

Richard said he is keen to get a jab soon as he suffered from severe bronchial asthma until he was 14 which means he still gets shortness of breath when he catches a cold. Furthermore he suffers from panic attacks and works in the live music business which may require full immunisation for travel when it gets back on track.

A person receiving a vaccine in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd von Jutrczenka

“It seems that many Germans think that the healthy 60+ category is already being inoculated, but in Dortmund that is simply not the case; as of this morning, it is still not allowed to book an appointment.

“With under three weeks until the doors are thrown wide open, I am really concerned that I and every healthy fair-minded 60+ person are now being forgotten.”

The Local contacted the North Rhine-Westphalia health office for a comment.

Why is there such a lottery when it comes to getting the vaccine in Germany?

Despite a clear acceleration of vaccine delivery in Germany, there are still people who belong to ‘risk’ priority groups who have not been vaccinated yet.

Other readers of The Local have also reported that they’ve struggled to find information or get an appointment even though they qualify for a shot.

This could be down to bureaucratic failures in states or local regions when trying to secure appointments. It’s also not particularly helpful that each area in Germany has a different way of doing things, and processes change at short notice.

The vaccine rollout in Berlin is different to neighbouring Brandenburg, and so on.

Another factor is the behaviour of people. It appears you are more likely to get a vaccine if you push for it, or have the time and resources to contact lots of different doctors – but Health Minister Jens Spahn has urged people not to put pressure on medical staff.

You might know a person with a contact for a vaccinating doctor, or you might be lucky enough to receive an appointment from your own doctor, be it a GP or a specialist. 

This points to a long-standing problem with Germany’s organisation of the vaccine rollout: it isn’t very logical, and a lot of it depends on luck.