Penrith family nearly dead after carbon monoxide poisoning from charcoal barbecue used inside

A PENRITH family of four are recovering in hospital after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning from a barbecue that had been lit indoors to warm the family home.

It is understood the father woke up early this morning to find his wife and two teenage children unconscious in the living room of their apartment.

The family appeared to be warming up the room they were sleeping in with a rudimentary charcoal barbecue.

Paramedics were called to the family home on Lethbridge st, Penrith, in the early house of the morning. All four members of the family were admitted to Nepean Hospital, with the mother and two children in a serious condition. Both the mother and father have now been discharged and their two children are in a very stable condition, a spokeswoman for Nepean hospital said. The children are expected to be discharged this morning.

According to emergency services, the apartment did not have a working smoke alarm which would have been set off by a barbecue in the living room.

Electric shutters still covered all windows of the ground floor apartment this morning, and the small picnic barbecue still containing charcoal ashes sat outside.

Employees of the medical practice next door, Amy Carpenter and Karen Leishman, said they were shocked to find out their long time neighbours had resorted to such dangerous methods to heat their home.

They said they knew the family well and described them as polite and “absolutely lovely.”

“They’ve lived in the apartment a very long time. We’ve watched the children grow up since they were babies,” said one woman from the practice. “Perhaps they were naive and didn’t realise how dangerous it was,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said the family had all now been discharged. Supt Cooper said: “Anything that’s designed to be used outdoors, should be left outdoors”. He added this includes anything that burns solid wood, coal or gas.

In the past two weeks alone, 13 people have required hospital treatment after burning such things indoors, according to the NSW Poisons Information Centre.

Just two weeks ago, a young Sydney couple were killed in Kurrajong from bringing a makeshift wood-fire heater indoors, while four people from Bankstown were also hospitalised on Monday from an outdoor heater.


* It’s emitted from anything that burns solid wood, coal, or gas

* Is colourless and odourless

* It can build up in your blood stream over time

* Do not bring indoors any heaters or burners designed for use outside

* Symptoms can include headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness and getting a red glow

*  If you feel unwell, get some fresh air

Supt Cooper says there’s an increase of this sort of behaviour in the colder months.

“One or two breaths of carbon monoxide will render you unconscious and any further exposure will result in death,” he said.

“Carbon monoxide is odourless and colourless. You can’t see it and you can’t smell it. But once it affects you, you very rarely live to tell the tale.”