Deadly Month for Michigan Carbon Monoxide Incidents

A series of Michigan Carbon Monoxide deaths has happened in November including another hotel case where alarms didn’t warn guests and a tragic case of missing batteries in Rochester Hills.

By Attorney Gordon Johnson

Late fall is always a bad time for carbon monoxide poisoning cases, as furnaces are turned on for the first time. As too often occurs, Michigan carbon monoxide deaths were all too common in Michigan in November. All of these deaths were likely preventable, and a working alarm may have been all it would have taken to have made a difference.

Victory Inn Ann Arbor Michigan Carbon Monoxide Death

The most recent Michigan Carbon Monoxide fatality at 12:38 p.m. yesterday, November 28th. when a maintenance worker at the Victory Inn and Suites in Ann Arbor was found dead in the hotel’s boiler room. The ambient air levels were above 500 ppm according to the Ann Arbor Fire Department. In all likelihood the levels were so high that the worker became unconscious so quickly he didn’t have a chance to perceive that he was getting sick before it was too late.

Michigan Carbon Monoxide Deaths

November Michigan Carbon Monoxide deaths include this fatality at the Victory Inn, as reported on the Ann Arbor Fire Departments Facebook page.

These are typically called “drop where you stop” events, where an awake person succumbs so quickly they don’t have time to evacuate. Once unconscious, they will continue to inhale the CO until the levels reach a fatal level. It is notable that this was a daytime poisoning, an issue we discussed in last week’s blog, where a solitary individual is most at risk of a severe poisoning in absence of an alarm.


One concern we have about this hotel carbon monoxide death is what about the carbon monoxide exposure to the guests of the Victory Inn Ann Arbor. With levels this high in the boiler room, it is probable that the rest of the hotel had toxic, if not deadly levels. At 1 p.m., most overnight guests would have checked out. Did the hotel contact the previous night’s guests to see if anyone is feeling ill? In our experience they probably did not. If you were there that night and are feeling ill, seek medical care now. Even if it is past the time when carbon monoxide would still show up in your blood, the symptoms could be ongoing and a diagnosis is key.

For an update on this story, click here.

Rochester Hills Michigan Carbon Monoxide Deaths

A different type of event claimed the life of an older couple in Rochester Hills, Michigan on November 17, 2022. Paul, 75 and Frances Kamulski, 74 were killed in their home from what was likely a malfunctioning furnace or hot water heater.  They were found by neighbors after their daughter had asked a neighbor to check. The levels were considerably lower than in the Victory Inn in Ann Arbor, low enough that there would have been ample time to evacuate if there had been an alarm present. There was a carbon monoxide alarm in the home, but it did not have batteries in it.

The time has passed that people should be dying because of dead or removed batteries in smoke or carbon monoxide alarms. Carbon monoxide detectors are available with 7 or 10 year batteries now. The manufacturers should stop making alarms with replaceable batteries. The batteries should last for the life of the alarm. Further, if people understood that the batteries didn’t need to be replaced, then they wouldn’t ignore the alarms, thinking it is just a battery problem. Kidde and First Alert, the primary manufacturers of carbon monoxide and smoke detectors need to take the initiative and only manufacture devices with long term batteries in them.


“This is a horrific preventable tragedy to lose two people,” Sheriff Michael Bouchard said. “They actually had a carbon monoxide detector in the home, but for some reason, it was not in place and the batteries were out of it. We always encourage people to check their smoke detectors and their carbon monoxide detectors each time we change the clocks for daylight savings. It’s a good idea to have more than one in your home, and you can get them that run on batteries or plug-in with battery backup. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends as they deal with this terrible loss.”

Do Not Open Windows and Doors Before Evacuating

A very important side note on this story is that the neighbor who responded to the daughter’s request, also seems to have been poisoned, while performing CPR.

According to Fox 2, when the neighbor told the 911 operator that she was experiencing lightheadedness, the neighbor was apparently instructed to open all of the windows and doors.

If that in fact was what the neighbor was told, that was the wrong advice. Just the process of taking the time to open the windows and doors is enough to drop into unconsciousness like the maintenance worker in the Victory Inn poisoning. If you ever suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, get out. Do not pause to open windows. Just get out. The reason is the same as the airline warnings about putting your oxygen mask on before helping others. Once you are unconscious, it is too late.

911 operators–and those who answer emergency calls for utility companies–need to be taught to say the same principle as airline attendants: Warn people to get out ASAP before it becomes a drop where you stop event.

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