Eight of the 17 deaths linked to Hurricane Laura in Louisiana were from carbon monoxide poisoning, the Louisiana Department of Health said

By Rachel DeSantis
September 03, 2020 11:49 AM
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Hurricane Laura damage in Lake Charles
Dave Creaney/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Nearly half of the deaths linked to Hurricane Laura in Louisiana stemmed from carbon monoxide poisoning, including those of four members of the same family.

Seventeen people in the state died after Laura made landfall on Aug. 27, the Louisiana Department of Health said on Wednesday.

Of those fatalities, eight people died of carbon monoxide poisoning, with ages ranging from a 24-year-old male to an 84-year-old male, the department said. All but one of the deaths were directly attributed to poisoning from a generator.

When Laura hit, more than 400,000 people in the state were left without power, according to PowerOutage.US., though Gov. John Bel Edwards warned residents to be extremely “safe and cautious” when running a generator, as they can leak toxic fumes into homes if not placed in a well-ventilated area, CNN reported.

Among the generator-involved deaths: Rosalie Lewis, 81, her daughter, Kim Lewis Evans, 56, her son-in-law Chris Evans, 61, and her brother Clyde Handy, 72, the Associated Press reported.

The family — along with Rosalie’s husband John, 84 — survived the storm in their Lake Charles home, and were sheltering there when they set up a generator in the garage, the Daily Advertiser reported.

RELATED VIDEO: Hurricane Laura Makes Landfall in U.S. as a Category 4 Storm

Rosalie’s son Lyle Lewis told the newspaper that they’d left the garage open for ventilation, but winds from the storm appeared to have blown it closed, and the odorless, colorless and toxic fumes from the generator leaked inside.

“It’s an awful reminder that even when you do everything right, these things can happen,” cousin Frances Spencer told BuzzFeed News. “People forget that often the death comes in the aftermath.”

Family members told the Advertiser that the family was concerned about evacuating because they did not want to expose Rosalie and John — who remains in critical condition and on life support in a local hospital — to COVID-19 in a hotel or shelter.

Hurricane Laura damage in Hackberry, Louisiana
Erin Trieb For The Washington Post via Getty

Meanwhile, other deaths in the state linked to Laura include four people killed by falling trees, one person who drowned, one person who died of a head injury after falling from a roof, one person who died in storm cleanup, one person who died of blunt force trauma while cutting down a tree and two people who died of heat-related illness, the Department of Health said.

The youngest victim was a 14-year-old girl who died from a fallen tree in Vernon Parish.

The hurricane touched down in the early hours of Aug. 27 as a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph. It quickly weakened, and was gradually downgraded to tropical storm, then tropical depression.