Woman, Child Die of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Texas After Using Running Car to Heat House
A woman and child died of carbon monoxide poisoning in Houston after running a car in the garage to try and keep warm amid record-low temperatures, authorities said.
The incident also sent an adult male and a young boy to the hospital, making them two of more than 300 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning reported in Harris County in the last few days, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Officers with the Houston Police Department and members of the Houston Fire Department were dispatched to 8300 La Roche for a welfare check, and upon arrival found the four people "affected by carbon monoxide poisoning," the police department said in a statement via Twitter on Tuesday.
The woman and female child — who was 8 years old, according to KTRK — were pronounced dead, while the boy, who is reportedly 7 years old, and adult male were transported to the hospital, police said.
"Initial indications are that [a] car was running in the attached garage to create heat as the power is out," the statement said. "Cars, grills and generators should not be used in or near a building."
The woman was speaking with a relative in Colorado on the phone when she became disoriented and passed out in the running car, KTRK reported. The relative then reportedly called police, who found the woman dead in the car and the girl dead in the condo.
"This is so heartbreaking," Chief of Police Art Acevedo said in a statement. "Please bundle up and be aware of the extreme danger carbon monoxide poses for us. Praying for this family."
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The incident occurred shortly after six people also in Houston were transported to the hospital after using a charcoal grill to heat their apartment for about four hours, the Cy-Fair Fire Department said.
The victims included four children aged 5-10 years old, and as of Monday night, one child and one adult were listed in critical condition, the fire department said.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that's found in fumes produced any time fuel is burned in cars, engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges or furnaces, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It can cause sudden illness and death, and while the symptoms are often described as "flu-like," CO poisoning can kill people in their sleep before they begin exhibiting symptoms.
A spokesman for Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston told the Chronicle that many patients seeking treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning used barbecue pits and generators indoors to keep warm, as Texas was recently pummeled by a winter storm that knocked out power for millions amid freezing temperatures.
The CDC recommends installing a battery-operated CO detector in your home, and checking on the batteries at least twice a year. It also recommends having your appliances serviced by a qualified technician each year, and making sure you do not use portable flameless chemical heaters or generators indoors.