‘Significant failure’ in heating system possible cause in family’s death

The Capitano family, photo location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Megan Capitano's Facebook page, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Officials believe carbon monoxide poisoning from a cabin’s heating system could be to blame in the deaths of four family members found dead on New Year’s Day in a family friend’s cabin in northern Arizona.

Authorities responding to a cabin for a welfare check discovered the bodies of a family of four suspected of dying from carbon monoxide poisoning, Parks, Ariz., Jan. 1, 2018 | Photo courtesy of the Ponderosa Fire Department, St. George News

A contractor who inspected the cabin in Parks – a small town between Williams and Flagstaff – discovered a “significant failure” in the cabin’s heating system consistent with carbon monoxide overcoming the residence, according to a statement issued by the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office.

The heating unit was the only gas appliance in the cabin further pointing to the likelihood of carbon monoxide poisoning, the Sheriff’s Office said. The manner and cause of death is being investigated by the Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The victims have been identified as 32-year-old Anthony Capitano, 32-year-old Megan Capitano, 4-year-old Lincoln Capitano and 3-year-old Kingsli Capitano, of El Mirage, Arizona. Authorities said the family may have been dead for a couple of days.

Anthony Capitano’s older son, Ashton, was home with his mother in Texas when his father, stepmother and siblings died.

Their bodies were found Jan. 1 during a welfare check after a family friend, who hadn’t heard from them in several days and was unable to reach them, called the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office.

Read more: Family of 4 found dead in cabin

First responders said there was a strong odor of gas when they arrived at the scene.

“As you know carbon monoxide has no odor or smell,” the Sheriff’s Office said. “After going back and questioning the responders, it was determined the smell was that of the furnace exhaust. This exhaust smell that was detected had a very strong odor, most likely consisting of byproducts of the gas and other elements in the heating system and house.”

The “silent killer”

Carbon monoxide is a year-round threat that, nationally, claims hundreds of lives each year.

Carbon monoxide is found in fumes produced by motor vehicles and gas-powered tools and appliances like gas stove ranges, grills, lanterns and heating systems, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It is also produced by burning charcoal and wood.

It 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.

Carbon monoxide is picked up by the blood’s red cells faster than oxygen, according to the CDC.

“This blocks oxygen from getting into the body, which can damage tissues and result in death,” the CDC states on its website. “CO can also combine with proteins in tissues, destroying the tissues and causing injury and death.”

The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.

Ways to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home

  • Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home. Place your detector where it will wake you up if it alarms, such as outside your bedroom. Consider buying a detector with a digital readout.
  • Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors.
  • If you smell an odor from your gas refrigerator have an expert service it as the odor can mean it could be leaking CO.
  • Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly.
  • Have your chimney checked or cleaned every year.
  • Never patch a vent pipe with tape, gum or something else.
  • Never use a gas range or oven for heating.
  • Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal – red, gray, black or white – gives off CO.
  • Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors.
  • Never use a generator inside your home, basement or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door or vent.

If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, move quickly to a fresh air location and then call 911.

This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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