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Owner of Allentown day care hopes to reopen soon after carbon monoxide incident

Emergency personnel respond after dozens sickened by carbon monoxide exposure at day care
Stephanie Sigafoos
The owner of Happy Smiles Day Care says she expects students to return Monday.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Child care provider Jesenia Gautreaux said she hopes to reopen her day care on Monday.

Most of the 32 children and adults poisoned Tuesday by a carbon monoxide exposure at her business, Happy Smiles Learning Center, have been released from area hospitals. Three children were transferred to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and an unknown number of patients were moved to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital for aggressive treatment with hyperbaric oxygen because of high concentrations of CO levels in their blood.

Their conditions are not known at this time.

  • Happy Smiles Learning Center owner Jesenia Gautreaux said she hopes to reopen by Monday
  • Gautreaux said repairs are being made and the building now has CO detectors
  • City officials said the owner needs to pull a permit and pass an inspection to reopen

A spokesman at UGI Corp. said a malfunctioning heating unit and blocked venting system were to blame. The building did not have carbon monoxide sensors, but was not required to have them installed until Oct. 27.
Gautreaux said she is sure that parents will return with their children when she reopens. She said they are already asking her when they can come back.

“Most of the kids who are in this day care, they have been with me since I have opened," Gautreaux said. "If the job that we do here and if they wouldn’t feel safe and that their child is safe, they would have left a long time ago.”

The day care owner said she complied with all safety requirements and has taken care of the repairs and that she has also installed carbon monoxide sensors.

“Most of the kids who are in this daycare, they have been with me since I have opened. If the job that we do here and if they wouldn’t feel safe and that their child is safe, they would have left a long time ago.”
Jesenia Gautreaux, owner of Happy Smiles Learning Center

“Everything has been taken care of,” Gautreaux said.

A spokeswoman with the city of Allentown said the owner’s business license is currently suspended.

To reopen, she would need to obtain a permit to make the repairs to the heating system and pass a city inspection. As of Wednesday afternoon, the city did not have a request for a permit for that business, she said..

Paramedics were summoned to the child care center around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday for a report of an unconscious child.

Allentown Fire Department spokesman John Christopher said emergency responders registered readings of 700 parts per million of carbon monoxide at the facility, far beyond the threshold of what is considered a lethal amount of the gas.

There were no carbon monoxide detectors at the facility.

Dr. Andrew Miller, chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine for Lehigh Valley Health Network, said in a statement that excessive inhalation of CO is associated with acute and long-term consequences, including damage to the brain and heart because they demand a lot of oxygen.

Several of the children treated at Lehigh Valley hospitals Tuesday were unconscious prior to arrival.