Carbon Monoxide Detector May Have Prevented Family's Death

By Shannon Davidson

(JEFFERSONVILLE, Ky., February 2nd, 2004, 4:30 p.m.) -- A fourth person in Montgomery County died Monday as the result of carbon monoxide. The mother of the Montgomery County family died early Monday morning. We are told this family did "not" have a carbon monoxide detector. As WAVE 3's Shannon Davidson such a detector may have saved their lives.

Bert Thacker, his 13-year-old son, Marvin, and his 11-year-old daughter, Heather, were found dead in their home Sunday. Mary Thacker was found alive in a bedroom and taken to the hospital, but she died early Monday morning.

All four were victims of carbon monoxide poisoning from a gas stove which was adjacent to one of the bedrooms. Most windows in the home were sealed with plastic, leading investigators to believe there wasn't ample ventilation, contributing to the mounting CO fumes.

"The attic was blocked by insulation, causing the carbon monoxide fumes to come back into the residence," says Detective Shane Barnes with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department.

A working carbon monoxide detector can prevent unnecessary deaths due to CO poisoning. Most carbon monoxide detectors have an alarm that will sound when the levels in your home reach a dangerous level. CO detectors can be found at many retail stores for less than $100.

The cost is well worth it, if it saves even one life.

"There needs to be a wake up reminder to people," says Jeffersonville Mayor Richard Henderson, "to get out and check, make sure your carbon monoxide detector is working and that you do have one -- especially with gas heat."

Captain Ronel Brown with the Louisville Fire Department says simply buying a CO detector can greatly reduce the risk of illness, or even death from CO poisoning. "Any type of early warning device will alert you, in the event that poisonous gases are in the atmosphere."

Brown points out that the detectors are available at any hardware store.

We found three different types of detectors at Keith's Hardware, ranging in price from $29.99 to $49.99. All were plug-ins, but the most expensive had a digital readout.

CO exposure is measured in parts per million (PPM). A permissible level is between zero and 30 PPM. Above 30 PPM, you'll experience flu-like symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, and headache. Once exposure reaches the 40 to 50 PPM range, asphyxiation can occur.

At least one CO detector, if not more, is recommended per household, but Brown says another way to prevent CO poisoning is to check sources in your home that release carbon monoxide. "Hire a technician to come and look at those appliances to make sure they're operating properly."

You're not required by law to have a carbon monoxide detector in your home, but safety organizations say they're just as important as smoke detectors, and they are your responsibility to install.

It's recommended that CO detectors be placed at least 15 feet away from any heat source. The fire department recommends placing them near sleeping areas or in a central location in the house.

One of the best types of detectors plugs right into the wall outlet and has a digital display screen so you can see how high the CO level is.

Because it is tasteless, odorless and colorless, CO is often called the silent killer, accounting for about 500 deaths in the U.S. each year.

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Online Reporter: Shannon Davidson

Online Producer: Michael Dever