Unfortunately, I expected to see more of these tragic cases in the wake of Hurricane Irene, which knocked out power last weekend in a swath from North Carolina to Maine.     

An elderly couple died of carbon monoxide poisoning last Tuesday in their summer home in Raymond, Maine, with the lethal gas coming from an emergency generator, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

http://articles.philly.com/2011-09-01/news/30029230_1_carbon-monoxide-generator-summer-home

Lewis Somers, 85, and his wife Elizabeth, 84, both from the Lafayette Hill area of Pennsylvania, were discovered in their Sebago Lake home by one of their neighbors Tuesday.

Hurricane Irene had knocked out power in the couple’s lakeside summer home for more than 48 hours, and they were running a propane generator in their basement to provide electricity, The Inquirer reported.

I’m sure that many residents of the East Coast had generators going when they went off the power grid because of the devastation of Irene. Accidental carbon monoxide deaths caused by emergency generators were a second tragedy waiting to happen.

It’s especially heartbreaking in the case of the Somerses, because authorities said that their generator was connected to an exterior exhaust system. But that ventilation system had deteriorated, and that led to the two deaths, according to the Morning Sentinel of Maine.    

http://www.onlinesentinel.com/news/faulty-gas-vent-blamed-for-deaths_2011-08-31.html

The local newspaper reported that although the generator was a high-quality model, it had been installed when the summer house was built way back in the 1980s. The generator had a system to take the exhaust through the basement wall to the outside of the building. 

But authorities told the Morning Sentinel that the metal hose used to carry and vent the generator’s fumes had become cracked, and that the underground 55-gallon drum that the hose connected to had partially collapsed. Those factors could have made the carbon monoxide fumes back up into the basement, ultimately killing the elderly couple.

There are two life-saving lessons to be had here. You should periodically have appliances that operate on fuel of any kind checked periodically. And you should have carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

Police could not find any carbon monoxide detectors in the Somers’ Maine house.

Lewis Somers was an entrepreneur, millionaire and philanthropist. I’m sure he and his wife will be missed.      

1 reply
  1. Dawn Flinchbaugh
    Dawn Flinchbaugh says:

    How very sad!!! Over the years since my family and I had been poisoned long term from CO poisoning, I am amazed at all the ways we use fuel from different sources without thought that our very lives are in danger. These folks did everything right, except basic maintenance. We, too, thought we’d done everything right when we were told our furnace was old and needed replaced and that I, who suffered with headaches a lot, was told the headaches would go away. They didn’t go away, only increased in amt. and intensity, plus gave me and my family strange symptoms. It turned out, our “new” furnace was never vented to the outside. It was vented instead to the old furnace which had no flue. The large company involved, hired a “fly by night” “outfit” to .install the furnace. All together there were 29 things not up to code. Back in 97, one rarely heard about CO detectors. Had we had one, I wonder if we would be living the lives we live today. I suffer with multiple health issues, memory problems, fatigue, cardiac issues, kidney failure, depression, COPD, lung and thyroid nodules and so much more. My family, was torn apart, the stress of all we endured physically as we were slowly being poisoned day by day, one winter season to the next for a total of 6 years. I wonder how much could be related to the CO. We will never know. . The company involved was never held accountable. We didn’t know to go to the hospital for blood test, though we did have neuropsychological testing that we were told showed that we had been poisoned,. We also didn’t know how to go about contacting lawyers such as yourselves so I went to a local attorneys office. When it came time for them to get the info from the hospital about the tests, the Doctors then changed the minds, saying, well the tests were indicative of CO poisoning, we can’t say for sure it was that and when I asked for the records of those tests, they were lost. This was a large teaching hospital. Strangely, too, in that time, the boss of the plumber who found that we had been poisoned, told us he had been contacted by the corporation that we purchased the furnace from, but he had refused the offer they gave him not to testify. About a yr. or so after the poisoning occurred, when I was driving through the area where we had lived, I noticed the plumber had a bigger building and a good amt. of new vehicles and work trucks. It’s amazing to me how in that short of time his company which was quite small had become so much bigger. It’s hard to comprehend how money had more value to that corporation or anyone else who played a part in the crime that was comitted on us in our own home at our financial, physical, emotional expense. Having it happen to you is different then reading about it in the papers. We we’re told we were lucky to be alive as there was only 30% pure air in the house at the time the CO was discovered. I don’t believe in luck, but the grace of God., He spared our lives, though I’m not yet sure why. I’m breathing, I’m fighting to get from one day to the next , my plate full and overflowing, but I’m not really living and enjoying life. I feel like my life was taken away from me and I’m having a hard time getting it back. Ever since it happened my life has been a struggle and filled with much stress which only added to the illnesses. My prayer is that every home have a CO detector and that people are educated about the causes and effects of CO poisoning, both long and short term effects. The effects of carbon monoxide can dramatically change your life, if you survive. Thank you for your site that gives valuable information about CO and what one should do if found to have been subjected to CO. If we had only known, things might not be so hard now.
    My condolences to the family from Maine.

    Reply

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