SAINT CLAIR — Neighbors said Charles Gately was a grandfather of four who loved to work on cars and used to drive a truck for a coal mine. His friend Patrick Hand knew him for close to 40 years.
“He will be missed, especially by me,” said Hand.
Police in Saint Clair said that on Saturday, Gately ran out of heating oil and decided to light the coal furnace in the basement of his home on South Second Street.
“I actually saw him about six o’clock last night. He said he was going to fire up his coal furnace for the night, you know because he had no oil burner, so sometimes he uses that, and it was unfortunate,” explained Hand.
Investigators believe the flue pipe of that coal furnace was clogged, causing coal in the hopper to start burning and filling the home with fumes.
Just before 8 a.m. Gately’s girlfriend, who police have not identified, called 911 feeling confused.
The couple was taken to the hospital where Gately was pronounced dead. His girlfriend remains in intensive care, but is expected to survive.
Neigbors said that the day before, the man known by friends as “Buster” or “Buzz” was out with a snow blower helping his neighbors.
“He helped me out a lot with a lot of little things, and he did some favors for a lot of neighbors too,” said Hand.
Police said one cat in the house was killed by the fumes, but another was rescued.
They did not find a smoke or carbon monoxide detector.
For more information on carbon monoxide detectors click here.