In the wake of last weekend’s tragic and devastating events, the loss of a young couple holidaying in the beautiful Blue Mountains with family and friends, has rocked the community at large and has again brought to the forefront a conversation about the dangers of using various heating methods in the cooler months.
Derek Kehler, 32 and Helena Curic, 31 fell met in Canada where they worked in IT together, before travelling to Australia together where Ms. Curic was born and attended school. The adventure-loving pair shared a home in Sydney and were enjoying a trip away for the long weekend in a secluded area of a property in the Blue Mountains with friends including Ms. Curic’s sister. The group were lodging in converted-shipping containers which lacked the sort of ventilation a cabin might offer.
On Monday morning, Curic’s sister found the couple in their room not breathing. Paramedics were called but it was unfortunately too late to save the couple.
Hawkesbury Police Detective Inspector Suzanne Rode-Sanders said “It appears they had some sort of makeshift heater inside in the cabin and there was not any ventilation, and as a result they may have asphyxiated with carbon monoxide poisoning.”
It has been reported the couple took some hot coals from the fireplace outside and placed them in their room in a pot as kind of make-shift heater.
The events bring to mind a similar tragedy which occurred in the area back in 2010. Chase and Tyler Robinson met a similar fate when they were exposed to the dangerous fumes from a heater in their home in Victoria. The boys, aged 8 and 6, were sleeping besides their mother Vanessa who herself came incredibly close to losing her life.
The conversation these events have raised is an incredibly important one, and awareness about the dangers of carbon monoxide need to be shared widely.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon Monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas which is highly potent and poisonous. Half of all unintentional deaths caused by CO poisonings are the result of inhalation of the fumes from fires. Vehicle exhausts and domestic heating devices are also responsible.
In normal conditions, combustion of fossil fuels results in Carbon Dioxide (CO2) which we all exhale every time we breathe. However, if there is a lack of air for the combustion process to take place, or if the heating device is faulty then it can produce Carbon Monoxide.
When too much carbon monoxide is in the air you’re breathing, your body replaces the oxygen in your red blood cells with carbon monoxide. This prevents oxygen from reaching your tissues and organs which can result in illness or death.
What you need to be cautious of…
Carbon Monoxide is particularly dangerous for babies, children and older adults. But it can kill anyone, so know the dangers and take precaution when dealing with a fire or heating device of any type.
- Fires indoors – Using a fireplace, barrel fire, or any other type of fire that depends on fossil fuels in your home is very dangerous. Ensuring your home has the right ventilation is imperative. The fire should be in a very secure spot, with nothing flammable surrounding it and you should always have a method of putting the fire out quickly if require.
- Faulty appliances – Check all of your heated appliances around the home. Check for: weak yellow or orange flames on your stove top (the flame should be blue), dark staining around or on appliances, pilot lights that frequently go out, increased condensation inside windows. If you suspect there is an issue, have it checked out by a professional.
As there is no odour, visual appearance or smell to Carbon Monoxide, having an alarm which will sense whether there is any CO in the room is a good idea. You can buy them here.
Remember that Carbon Monoxide alarms are no substitute for regular inspection and maintenance of appliances, vents, flues and chimneys.
Symptoms and what to do in an Emergency
If you feel you or a loved one may have been exposed to CO, know the symptoms and know how to respond.
- Loss of consciousness
Get fresh air immediately. Open doors and windows, turn off gas appliances and leave the house. See your doctor immediately, call an ambulance or go to hospital – let them know that you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.
If you think there is immediate danger, call 1800 GAS LEAK (1800 427 532).