Coroner's report reveals accidental carbon monoxide poisoning led to couple's death

A coroner's report has shown that the tragic death of an elderly Cowra couple in August last year was the result of carbon monoxide poisoning.

David and Elaine Livingstone were found deceased on Friday, August 23, by a regular house caller.

According to the report the deaths, which occurred in the lounge room of the Hanna Street home, happened some time between Wednesday, August, 21 and Friday, August 23, and were the result of carbon monoxide from a poorly maintained wood heater.

According to a pharmacologist working with detectives on the case, a carbon monoxide level of around 20 per cent would render most people unconscious.

Mr Livingstone was found to have carbon monoxide saturation of 50 per cent in his blood, his wife a slightly higher saturation of 57 per cent.

The report reveals that levels as high as those seen in the Livingstone's toxicology reports are usually associated with smoke inhalation due to fires, or deliberate car exhaust inhalation.

The doctor noted that over-heating and reduced oxygen due to insufficient combustion heating could have resulted in increasing carbon monoxide levels which could have resulted in the two becoming unconscious and then dying as a result of carbon toxicity.

A report supplied to the coroner by the lead crime scene officer, together with accompanying photographs, indicated that the flue to the wood heater had not been cleaned or maintained in a number of years.

The officer concluded that the poor state of the wood heater and the flue was the cause of the lethal levels of carbon monoxide accumulating in the lounge room.

The coroner found there to be no suspicious circumstances in relation to the deaths and said police involved in the investigation did a thorough and comprehensive investigation. He stressed to the public they can be assured that no stone was left unturned as a result of the investigation.


Carbon Monoxide Kills Eight, Including Seven Children, in Maryland Family

(NBC News) A man and seven children ages 6 to 16, all of them related, were found dead in a home Monday in the southern Maryland town of Princess Anne, but no foul play was suspected, authorities told NBC News.

The Daily Times of Salisbury quoted police as saying the deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Princess Anne police said they found the bodies inside the house, which was locked and undisturbed, when they responded to a report about a co-worker who was missing.

No other details were immediately available. The victims' identities were being withheld until relatives could be notified, Princess Anne police said.


One week to go!

It's one week until Australia's very own Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week kicks off!

We will be working with our partners Energy Safe Victoria and Origin to bring you information on how to stay safe this winter.

If you want to get involved and join us in raising awareness throughout your own community, whether it's by sharing our information or holding an event, go to the Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week page here and download CO Awareness Week Tool Kit.


Deaths spark Greens' push for renters to be protected from faulty gas heaters

Greens' leader Greg Barber has been working with Goulburn Valley woman Vanessa Robinson, whose sons, Chase, 8, and Tyler, 6, died in the family's rented Mooroopna property in 2010.

An inquest into their deaths earlier this year found the boys died from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a poorly serviced gas wall heater but stopped short of recommending legislative changes.

Mr Barber says with more people living in rented homes, the vulnerable need to be protected.

"So if your house is literally making you sick due to its condition, you and your children could be suffering in that situation for a long time, so clearly there's a strong broader public [need] having a basic standard for rental housing," he said.

Mr Barber will table the bill tomorrow.

"What our law would do is give the Minister the power to create a minimum standard and we're not talking about spa pools here, talking about basic stuff like locks that lock, running water, safe appliances, working stoves and other appliances," he said.

Ms Robinson says she was disappointed the coroner did not recommend legislative changes.

She says it is important the proposed new laws gain the support of the Minister for Housing, Wendy Lovell.

"The laws aren't stringent enough, so if they go to their landlord and they blatantly refuse then they're absolutely terribly frightened and a lot of them can't use their heating appliances and the ones that do, the impact on their health long-term is quite horrific," she said.

She says she supports the Greens' bill, which she believes will protect the vulnerable and she says she hopes all sides of politics back the proposed new minimum standards.

"I think that any politician who takes their time to think about community members that are in such vulnerable circumstances, the impact that this legislation can have on the community will be long-lasting," she said.


Old gas heaters prompt concerns for preschool children's safety atat Grace Park Preschool, Greensborough

A MELBOURNE kindergarten has installed gas detectors in a classroom, fearing old heaters could put students at risk.

Staff at Grace Park Preschool, Greensborough, installed carbon monoxide detectors in July after staff were reportedly told by Banyule City Council workers classroom heaters would not be replaced.

The devices activate an alarm if gas is detected, allowing teachers to evacuate the room.

Preschool committee president Jamile Petridis said the heaters had stopped functioning properly and temperatures often dipped below 10C in the classroom. The heaters were checked in July and council staff reportedly told Ms Petridis the centre was one of three schools needing an upgrade.

They were told the successful facility would be notified in September.

Staff voted to install the detectors as a precaution following the visit but there was no evidence to suggest the heaters were leaking. "We have over 20 children in the classroom and I don't want to see one die because of a lack of urgency from the council," Ms Petridis said

"They say that heaters are a silent killer. We don't want any of the kids to pass out or, God forbid, something worse.

"I cannot express how freezing it has been in there, the staff are rugged up and the children's hands are freezing cold. We are a not-for-profit organisation and the maintenance of the building is up to the council.

"We are not asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars. We are just asking for a proper heater."

When contacted by the Herald Sun, Banyule City Council Mayor Wayne Phillips said new heating would be installed at the preschool in several weeks.

"All heaters are inspected and serviced annually at the start of winter by a registered plumber. The most recent report confirms the heating currently installed is both safe and functioning correctly.

"Council received a request in May to improve heating at the preschool. Council officers assessed requirements in July and new heaters will be installed in the coming weeks.

Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Education Colin Brooks hit out at the council, saying the heating should have been fixed immediately. "I am shocked and horrified that a kindergarten should have to install carbon monoxide alarms to protect their children," he said.

"Banyule has just hit ratepayers with the biggest rate rise in the state. They should have the funds to fix this." Banyule Council's 2013-14 draft budget indicated a 7.95 per cent rate rise to reduce debt."


Poison gas victim tried to save mates

THREE deer hunters died in a caravan filled with deadly carbon monoxide fumes in Tasmania's Central Highlands.

And Coroner Glenn Hay has revealed that one of the victims had probably attempted to drag his unconscious mates to safety before being overcome himself.

Rodney Williams, 53, son Matthew, 26, and Terry Bartle, 39, all from Tasmania, died at Top Marshes near Miena in March last year.

The tragedy was blamed on a faulty gas fitting attached to a refrigerator that should not have been used inside the caravan, which had been renovated by Mr Bartle.

It was the final tragic chapter in a hunting trip which had not gone well for the three victims.

They failed to see any deer and the pilot light on one refrigerator began playing up. Their generator broke down and a portable gas hot water heater in the rear of their utility had caught fire.

"Three families and our community have tragically been robbed of loving and vibrant men, so greatly missed by their families and friends," Mr Hay said after finding that the victims had died accidentally from carbon monoxide poisoning while sleeping in a caravan with a gas-operated refrigerator inside.

He said it was impossible to give "final and unequivocal answers" to many questions arising from the deaths.

"It is plausible that Mr R Williams left the caravan at around 5am, possibly to relieve himself, when he was in a carbon monoxide intoxicated state," he said in his written findings.

"That when he re-entered the caravan, closing the door behind him, he realised something was wrong and attempted to drag his son and Mr Bartle from the bunks in which they were sleeping in an attempt to wake them or drag them from their sleeping bags or from the caravan.

"But he in turn was completely overcome by the carbon monoxide before he could complete this task. The positioning of each of the deceased upon finding suggests this was the case."

Mr Hay recommended mandatory carbon monoxide detection alarms in caravans where gas appliances were either fixed or where they might be used.

He also suggested consideration be given to empowering regular inspections of caravan gas installations and appliances, and maintenance including appropriate ventilation.

"During the course of my investigations it became clear that incidents involving significant carbon monoxide poisoning or subsequent death arising therefrom are not uncommon in Australia and elsewhere in the world," he said.

"This tragedy gives rise to a timely reminder to all do-it-yourself builders or renovators (not limited to caravans) to properly follow all legislative requirements including necessary safety standards and guidelines.

"To do so will limit as much as possible dangers to those persons or others who may come into contact with the items being built or renovated."


Brivis Climate Systems Lends a Helping Hand to the Chase and Tyler Foundation

Brivis Climate Systems -Australia’s leading supplier of climate systems - has lent its support to the Chase and Tyler Foundation to help bring awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home from faulty or inadequately maintained gas appliances.

The Chase and Tyler Foundation is a new not-for-profit organization working to reduce the risk of deaths and illness caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, and Brivis Climate Systems sponsored its launch event held on May 2 at the Melbourne Museum.

Brivis Climate Systems is actively supporting the cause and foundation, and is encouraging consumers to be aware of the risks and ensure that they have their appliances serviced every two years by a licensed gasfitter, to reduce the risks and have peace of mind.

Contact Brivis Climate Systems on 1300 BRIVIS (1300 274 847) to arrange a servicing of your gas ducted heating system, or email service@brivis.com.au.


Father dies in bakery gas poisoning

A MELBOURNE man with two young sons has died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator at the bakery where he was working on Father's Day.

The man's wife and a co-worker discovered the 43-year-old dead at a bakery in the outer eastern suburb of Ferntree Gully about 7am.

A 23-year-old man was taken to the Maroondah Hospital where he is in a stable condition.

Police said a petrol-fuelled generator was operating inside the bakery in anticipation of scheduled power outages this weekend and the building had insufficient ventilation.

Knox Police Sergeant Ian Marr said poisonous carbon monoxide fumes would have filled the building, much like a car exhaust in an enclosed space.

"The family's distraught,'' he said.

"Obviously it's a tragedy, it's compounded by the fact that it's Father's Day and two children have lost their dad today.''

A co-worker contacted the dead man's wife when he could not get into the bakery at 6.30am to start work.

They found the two workers unconscious in a rest-room at the back of the building.

Emergency services pronounced the 43-year-old dead on site and took the younger man to hospital.

The pair had been working at the bakery since at least midnight.

Sgt Marr said the dead man had two sons of primary-school age.

He said the death was not considered suspicious and police were preparing a report for the coroner.
WorkSafe is also investigating.

Sgt Marr said the incident was a tragic reminder of the need to exercise caution when using petrol generators intended for use outdoors.

"They need to be used in well ventilated areas, they're an internal combustion,'' he said.

"It's just a petrol engine, it's like your car it spits out carbon monoxide and it needs enough room to ventilate, get rid of the gas, and unfortunately there was no way for the gas to escape.'


Ballarat man dies using patio heater inside

The death of a Ballarat man at the weekend from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning has prompted new calls for awareness about the “silent killer” gas.

Police say the man, 40, was found dead in his Newington home on Saturday afternoon after CFA crews forced their way into the property.

Firefighters were called at 2.44pm and detected the presence of gas through a small gap in a window, before they broke in and found the man in his lounge room.

Police were called and established a crime scene at the home, before inspectors from Energy Safe Victoria arrived later in the day. The man’s death has been deemed accidental.

Police believe the man placed an outdoor patio heater, connected to a 9 kilogram gas cylinder, inside the lounge room for heating.

He was found dead in front of his television.

Energy Safe Victoria Safety director Paul Fearon said inspectors would return to the property today to continue investigations.

Police say the man, 40, was found dead in his Newington home on Saturday afternoon after CFA crews forced their way into the property.

Mr Fearon said carbon monoxide, on average, killed one person each year in Victoria but contributed to health issues for hundreds more.

"It's not just a fatality issue, it's a public health issue," he said.

"You can't see it, you can't smell it, you can't taste it,  carbon monoxide is a silent killer." Mr Fearon said outdoor gas heaters and barbecues should never be brought inside.

"It's not just the carbon monoxide,  if you bring those things inside, the oxygen depletion can kill you," he said.

"The golden rule is if a piece of equipment is attached to a gas bottle  don't bring it inside."

In 2010, two boys died from carbon monoxide poisoning in their Mooroopna home. Their mother was also severely poisoned.

While the weekend's death in Ballarat wasn't under the same circumstances, Mr Fearon said it was a reminder for people to be wary of the deadly gas.

"People should geut their gas heaters serviced every two years," he said.

"Heaters that are not serviced are not only inefficient and costly - they're also more likely to produce carbon monoxide."

For information on safety around gas, visit www.esv.vic.gov.au.


Coroner warns after indoor barbecue death

THE great Aussie barbie can be fatal and should carry a warning.

That is the recommendation of coroner Mary Jerram after a man died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning after taking a charcoal barbecue inside to cook.

The victim, Asaad Jassem Al Mayahi, 43, died between July 11 and 13 last year at Stanmore in Sydney's inner-west.

Following an inquest into his death, state coroner Mary Jerram found that he died from carbon monoxide poisoning after being exposed to the deadly fumes given off by barbecue briquettes burning indoors.

Ms Jerram told the Glebe Coroner's Court that both charcoal briquettes and portable barbecues should carry warnings about the dangers of burning charcoal in enclosed areas. She recommended that NSW Fair Trading ensure all barbecue charcoal briquettes - whether imported, manufactured or sold in Australia - carry a warning explaining that barbecue charcoal can give off carbon monoxide, which has no odour, and can be lethal.

The coroner asked that the warning be extended to portable barbecues.