Boy dies of carbon monoxide poisoning after fridge malfunction
Sarah Klebs and two of her three children were enjoying some time at the family’s holiday cabin in Alaska when 8-year-old Caroline complained of a headache. Soon, Gavin also had a headache, and started to vomit.
Sarah’s husband Matt was away on a work assignment, and her oldest son 14-year-old Connor was staying with friends.
After a few hours, Sarah also became unwell, but assumed the family had caught the flu, so the three of them rested – inside the cabin.
“How would you know?” Sarah said to Alaska Dispatch News. “Prior to this I would never have thought about it.”
Sarah says she has gaps in her memory of what happened that weekend, but she remembers being in bed and reading text messages from concerned family members asking if they were okay. She was unable to answer them.
But it wasn’t until 9am the next day that Connor’s friend’s parents became concerned enough to drive to the cabin to investigate, after Sarah failed to arrive to pick him up.
They found Sarah in bed with Caroline, who was unconscious. Sarah remembers trying to get out of bed but says her legs were “like rubber”. Gavin was found dead in the cabin. Sarah and Caroline were both taken to hospital and are expected to make a full recovery.
Investigators later found the cabin had a propane-powered refrigerator, which had started leaking carbon monoxide – an odourless gas.
The children’s dad Matt said he did regular maintenance on the fridge and he thought it was fine. A mechanical contractor, he said he felt responsible. “I’m in the business to keep this from happening,” he said.
The devastated couple are sharing their story in the hope it will stop another family suffering the same heartbreak. They want families to install carbon monoxide detectors in their homes.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include fatigue, headaches, nausea and confusion.