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Pigeons Blamed for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning at Movie Theater

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BERWICK – Carbon monoxide detectors were installed Monday at the Berwick Theater after more than a dozen movie-goers were poisoned by the gas this past weekend.

The fire chief says a malfunctioning furnace pumped carbon monoxide into the theater for about two hours Friday night, sending 17 people to the hospital.

The seats are empty now, but Friday night 60 movie-goers filled the theater in Berwick, ready to watch Despicable Me 2.  Owners of the theater on Front Street say when the heat kicked on, a big problem cropped up.

"Four pigeons decided to visit us and came in the wrong place at the wrong time and cracked one of the pipes," said Berwick Theater co-owner Angela Reimiller.

As the movie let out, several people including a staff member felt faint.  Ambulance crews came and then the fire department. They discovered that pigeons and their nest caused a gas furnace pipe to collapse, creating carbon monoxide gas at deadly levels.

"My guys found a problem with the furnace, shut everything down, did readings through the whole place, vented everything out," said Berwick Fire Department Chief William Coolbaugh.

Chief Coolbaugh says 17 people total went to Berwick Hospital and the theater put an alert about the carbon monoxide problem on its Facebook page, since many of the patrons had already left when the movie let out.

Officials say they hope people take what happened at the Berwick Theater as a learning experience and take steps to protect themselves from carbon monoxide poisoning in their own homes.

"Check your chimney. Make sure it's cleaned out. Check the piping. I mean, there's actually something to learn from this whole episode.  This was a wide-scale event, but it happens even in local homes,” said Chief Coolbaugh.

The theater isn’t required by law to have carbon monoxide detectors, but the owners now are installing three hoping to put everyone at ease.

"I think it does. I think it does for the girls that work here and everyone else,” said Reimiller.

Fire crews say the building is now 100% safe and ready for movie-goers again.