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2 women die in apparent carbon monoxide leak in Little Village home

A neighbor called 911 when they smelled gas coming from a home in the 2800 block of West 22nd Place.

Chicago police and People’s Gas work the scene where two women were found dead in a basement apartment from carbon monoxide poisoning in the 2800 block of West 22nd Place, in the Little Village neighborhood.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Two women died and four others, including three children, were hospitalized with apparent carbon monoxide poisoning Friday afternoon in the Little Village neighborhood.

The women who died were identified as Ernesteen Villanueva and Martha Villanueva, 53, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

A neighbor called 911 when they smelled gas coming from a home in the 2800 block of West 22nd Place, according to Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Merritt.

Firefighters forced their way into the home at 1:40 p.m. and found the two woman dead in the basement of the home. Ernesteen Villanueva’s age was not released by fire officials said she was in her 70s.

A family on the first floor — an adult and three children — were taken to Stroger Hospital, where their conditions were stabilized, Merritt said. No one else was in the home.

Chicago police canvassed the home in the aftermath of the tragic event as an employee with the gas company took out one of the building’s gas meters as they carried out its own investigation.

It was unclear where the carbon monoxide came from, Merritt said.

Acting Deputy District Chief Barry Garr said during a news conference outside the home that carbon monoxide levels were extremely high and was considered a “fatal dose.”

Eva Gonzalez, a resident of the neighborhood for 38 years, said she occasionally helped the two women, one of whom had a disability, and the other had just returned from the hospital a week ago. The family had moved next door to her just a few months ago.

“I feel bad because they are human beings,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said she only briefly got to know them. She helped the older woman open the younger woman’s medications when she returned from the hospital.

“She was too weak in her hands to push down and turn the medicine bottle, so I did it all for her,” Gonzalez said. “I can’t understand how this happened.”