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.”

Miss Kiss
Griffiths Goodall
Energy Safe Victoria
Origin Energy