Man Dies after Clogged Coal Furnace Fills Home with CO Fumes

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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.


  • mdog

    Ive never seen such hard times where a home burns every day or furnace fails
    because folks just cant afford the simple things in life. They have so little
    but taxes keep skyrocketing and free cell phones to the sucker who votes in the do nothings. God Bless

    • Richard S.

      Many people heat with coal in NEPA and it’s certainly not a sign of being poor, they are more likely to be middle class which may be surprising.The fundamental thing you need to do to remain safe with coal is insure the flue is cleaned, generally that is once a year maintenance but it could be more. Other than it’s the safest heating you can use. As with with any heating source that burns anything whether it’s coal, oil or natural gas you should have a CO detector.

      My condolences to the family

  • Tom

    Well you know there are a lot worse ways to go.
    At least he didn’t suffer.
    He just went to sleep and never saw it coming.
    When my time comes I hope I have it that easy.
    Condolences to the family.

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