ST. GEORGE – Authorities are urging caution Monday and offering safety tips to keep families safe this winter after three recent deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning have been reported.
Sashalynn Rosa, 23, and her 1-year-old son, Messiah, died of carbon monoxide poisoning in Passaic, New Jersey, the evening of Jan. 23, while the woman’s 3-year-old daughter, also involved in the incident, is listed in “very critical condition.”
All three victims were sitting in a running Mazda car while the father of the young family was shoveling the vehicle out of snow, according to authorities. The vehicle’s exhaust pipe was covered in snow, causing carbon monoxide to leak into the inside of the car.
David Perrotto, 56, of Muhlenberg Township, Pennsylvania, was also killed Jan. 3, after his running car became trapped by snow from a plow clearing the roadway, according to KidsAndCars.org.
Investigators said they believe Perrotto was either in the car with the motor running to take a break or trying to get out of the space when the plow came by and buried the car, blocking the exhaust and preventing him from exiting.
“These are incredibly tragic incidents that should serve as a reminder to always check to make sure no ice or snow is blocking your tailpipe before you get into your car,” Janette Fennell, president of KidsAndCars.org, said in a media statement Monday.
The “silent killer”
Carbon monoxide is often called the “silent killer” because it is a colorless, odorless, tasteless and nonirritating gas that can kill you quickly. Carbon monoxide can cause people who inhale it to lose consciousness and then die within a few minutes.
Motor vehicles are the primary cause of all unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning deaths, with a third of those deaths occurring in winter months. On average, about 150 people die each year as a result of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from motor vehicle exhaust, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
More people die from carbon monoxide exposure than any other kind of poisoning. And, while most people are aware of the dangers of starting a vehicle in a closed garage, not everyone realizes those same deadly conditions can be created by snow.
Carbon monoxide gas is emitted by running vehicles and can quickly cause you to become disoriented. Below are a few tips from KidsAndCars.org to keep you and your family safe from this dangerous gas:
- Always clear the tailpipe of a vehicle in inclement weather conditions; if the tailpipe becomes clogged with ice, snow or other debris, carbon monoxide can leak into the passenger compartment of the vehicle
- Do not put children or adults inside a running vehicle while clearing snow or ice off the vehicle
- Never leave a child alone in a vehicle, not even for a minute
- Never warm up a vehicle in any enclosed space
- Never leave a vehicle running in the garage, not even with the garage door open
- Always keep vehicles locked at all times and keep keys and remote openers out of reach of children as children may be tempted to get into vehicles to play or hide
- Keyless-ignition vehicles should always be double-checked to ensure the vehicle has been turned off. Even if you take the key fob with you, the vehicle could keep running
- Ensure that you have working carbon monoxide detectors in all areas of the home, especially near sleeping areas
- Check batteries twice a year and replace detectors every 6-10 years
- During busy times and changes in routine, be extra cautious as distractions and multi-tasking can lead to forgetting to turn the car off, even for the fanatically detail-oriented and organized person
- Do not allow children to play behind a running vehicle; this is dangerous for numerous reasons: the driver is unable to see them in the blind zone that exists behind all vehicles and they will be exposed to the fumes coming out of the vehicle’s exhaust system
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- The Silent Killer — The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Exposure
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