APD: Fatal carbon monoxide event likely caused by heating system in garage
Last updated at 7:20 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21
One person was killed and seven others hospitalized after a dangerously high level of carbon monoxide built up in the garage of a south Anchorage home Monday. The buildup appears to be caused by a boiler in the garage, according to Anchorage Police Department (APD) spokesperson Renee Oistad.
The victim has been identified as 18-year-old Trevor Noble, according to an updated release sent out Tuesday by police.
In an interview Tuesday, Lt. John McKinnon said the origin of the carbon monoxide was the home’s furnace system, which was located in the garage. McKinnon confirmed Noble had been sleeping above the garage.
“There was a pipe that was not attached to the furnace system and the exhaust from that heating element was emptying into the residence, which is the high likely source of the carbon monoxide,” he said.
McKinnon said the family reported that the system had recently been serviced, and they had been experiencing headaches.
“At this point, the case has been referred in brief to the district attorney,” McKinnon said. “We have consulted with them. At this point there is no intention to make any arrests of any kind. We don’t feel like there was something malicious.”
Anchorage Fire Department (AFD) deputy chief Jodi Hettrick said Monday that someone in the house woke up, realized another person wasn’t breathing, and called police. Around 8:20 a.m., AFD responded to 4825 Shoshoni Ave., near Rabbit Creek. They found the deceased and transported seven others to Providence Alaska Medical Center, Hettrick explained.
McKinnon provided new information Tuesday, saying that one of the other Noble children was in critical condition and the rest of the family showed signs of being overcome by carbon monoxide.
He said that some carbon monoxide detectors were found in the home, but carbon monoxide detectors were not installed in at least part of the home, “and did not go off to alert the family.”
AFD Capt. Matt McSorley said the amount of carbon monoxide inside the home was well above the normal limit to set off a carbon monoxide detector.
“Our crews on location found parts per million in the thousands,” he explained. “That’s a very high reading. Anything over 35 parts per million is our action level to get out of the house. So when you’re talking a thousand parts per million, it’s a level that can make you sick immediately.”
Carbon monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of accidental poisoning in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It claims an average of 450 lives per year and results in the hospitalization of 20,000 people.
McSorley said those numbers are a good reason to have at least one carbon monoxide detector in every home.
“You want them on each floor and outside the bedrooms as a minimum,” he said. That’s the recommendations that we have. They last for about seven years, so it’s not something you have to buy all the time, but I would read the box and make sure you are getting the right one for your home.”
McSorley noted that carbon monoxide incidents increase during the winter time, when cold weather means turning up the heat.
“Alaska is a place where houses are tight and furnaces are running constantly to keep us warm and when mechanical devices fail and break and people warm their cars up outside and in their garage on accident, we have a multitude of problems that cause carbon monoxide in our homes,” he said. “Carbon monoxide is caused by burning fossil fuel. So furnaces are not running in the summer, they are running all the time in the winter, especially — we are having a real winter this year, so we’ve seen many problems related to our Arctic environment up here.”
Home improvements stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot carry several different models, some of which detect not only carbon monoxide, but smoke as well. The price of a smoke or carbon monoxide detector can be as low as $20.
“If you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector in your home, go out and get one today,” McSorley said. “This is the perfect opportunity to turn a tragedy into a positive and make sure we don’t have any more of these in Alaska.”
KTVA 11’s Shannon Ballard contributed to this report.
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