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Carbon monoxide poisoning kills elderly couple
Updated Thu. Dec. 6 2007 9:34 AM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
An elderly Calgary couple has died and nine other people – eight emergency personnel and the couple’s adult son – were taken to hospital due to carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a car left running in the couple’s garage.
The toxic fumes filled the couple’s Varsity Acres home, located in northwest Calgary, late Wednesday afternoon.
Emergency crews responded to a call of a man suffering from an apparent heart attack around 5:30 p.m.
“The son who had made the call into 911 then asked about where his mother was as well. When emergency workers found that the mother was also in the house, also in cardiac arrest, they evacuated the building,” Emergency Medical Services spokesperson Paul Lapointe told CTV Calgary.
By the time EMS workers realized the potential cause of the couple’s emergency they had already been exposed.
“Both the fire department, three fire personnel, and also one paramedic started to develop symptoms so we responded with additional units,” Lapointe said Wednesday night.
In total, 11 people were affected by the odourless fumes including four firefighters, two paramedics and two Calgary police officers, along with the residents of the home and their son.
“I did see one EMS person, he was pretty shaken up. He was sitting down and the other EMS were attending to him,” neighbour Cody Reid told CTV Calgary.
Police confirmed the couple died due to a car left running in a garage attached to the home and that the deaths were accidental.
The identity of the elderly couple has not been released.
Lapointe said the incident was a “trying time” for emergency workers. Emergency crews credited their training for the quick detection of carbon-monoxide symptoms.
“It is the nature of our job, of course everything is a what if,” Calgary firefighter Jeff Budai said.
“Of course when we go to a scene and we find someone unconscious, our number one priority is to try and get them taken care of. Under this circumstance it was a great call by the captain to notice that there was some unusual behaviour in the house,” Budai said.
All emergency personnel and the couple’s adult son are expected to make a full recovery.
Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include confusion, headache, nausea and fatigue. Symptoms are often mistaken for the flu because the potentially deadly gas goes undetected in a home.
Carbon monoxide blocks the absorption of oxygen into the bloodstream from the lungs and poisons the red blood cells so they cannot carry oxygen. If body tissues do not receive a constant supply of oxygen, they stop functioning.
Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of fatal poisonings in North America, according to the Canada Safety Council