- Associated Press - Sunday, March 5, 2017

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) - A raised ranch built near Lake Decatur in 1958 for a doctor who belonged to the Commodore Decatur Yacht Club felt just right.

So after the Rev. Dow and Deb Moses vacated the parsonage of New Vision Urban Ministries, they sold their second home on Lake Shelbyville and used the money to buy the five-bedroom house for themselves and their daughter Destiny Moses, 18.

“He wanted to be close to the lake because he’s got a boat,” Deb Moses explained.

Before they moved in last August, the home mortgage company installed two carbon monoxide detectors in compliance with a state law in effect since Jan. 1, 2007.

Yet the devices stayed silent as two dogs and four puppies died since Christmas, and the couple experienced symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

It was Todd Robinson, owner of Noah’s Plumbing, who finally raised the alarm while on the phone with Dow Moses on Jan. 13, leading Moses to shut off the gas to a faulty water heater that Friday, three days before the plumber would come Monday to put in a new one.

“He may very well have saved our lives,” Dow Moses said.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that about 150 people die across the country annually from breathing carbon monoxide produced by consumer products. It invades the bloodstream, depriving cells and organs of oxygen needed for survival.

Known as a silent killer, carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas, somewhat lighter than air. It is byproduct of incomplete burning of coal, wood, charcoal, natural gas, fuel oil, kerosene, gasoline, fabrics or plastics.

Lyle Meador, deputy chief of fire prevention for the Decatur Fire Department, said the most recent CO death he can recall in the Decatur area is that of former Herald & Review Staff Writer Ron Ingram in 2009.

Ingram’s home did not have smoke or carbon monoxide detectors.

“We don’t go into private residences to enforce the law,” Meador said, “but the only way you’re going to know if you have carbon monoxide is if you have a detector.”

But just last month, 50-year-old Kevin Minnis died in his Palmer home trying to keep warm in his bathroom with a portable propane heater. Christian County Coroner Amy Calvert Winans said autopsy results show the Jan. 25 death was caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Chief Deputy Coroner Andy Goodall said the house had no electricity or running water and that Minnis had stuffed towels under the bathroom door to keep out the cold.

Tragically, they also blocked out any fresh air.

Goodall encouraged people to lend a hand to anyone who might be living in such conditions. “This is a life-threatening hazard that could have been avoided,” he said.

On Nov. 21, five police officers required treatment for CO exposure after responding the scene of a double fatality in Plainfield. Denise Carlini, 65, and her daughter Morgan Becker, 29, along with three pets, died as the result of a boiler malfunction.

Neither Minnis, nor the Plainfield residents, had carbon monoxide detectors in their homes.

In 2013, the most recent year national death estimates are available, engine-driven tools killed the most people, followed by heating systems.

Meador said the most common source of elevated CO levels he’s seen locally is a cracked heat exchanger in a gas furnace. “We encourage people to have their heating systems inspected and serviced annually,” he said.

In the case of the Moses family, an aging water heater had tipped to one side, pulling out the flue from the chimney and letting exhaust escape into the lower level of the home.

First Dolly, their 7-year-old chihuahua, suffered a seizure and died Dec. 27. Then Diamond, a 9-year-old chihuahua, suffered the same fate Jan. 5.

“We have a doggie door, and these two would go straight outside, use the bathroom and come back in,” Dow Moses said. “The two dogs we have left stay out in the backyard for hours at a time.”

Pets are much more quickly overcome by carbon monoxide because of their smaller size.

Problems with the water heater didn’t come to the family’s attention until Jan. 8, when there wasn’t enough hot water for showers before heading to church.

“I went downstairs and could see water running out of the water heater and down the floor drain right beside it,” Dow Moses said.

Thus the water heater was pumping out even more CO as it ran constantly, trying to heat the cold water coming in faster than the warm water ran out.

The next tragedy in the household came Jan. 11, when Destiny awoke to discover that their dog Dara’s four puppies, about 3 weeks old, had died in the night.

“She let mommy out to go potty, and the pups weren’t moving,” Deb Moses said. “We thought maybe she had laid on them.”

That same day, another plumber told the couple about the separated flue on the water heater but did not raise the possibility of CO problems with them.

Dow Moses spent most of his time at home that week, working on the church budget, and felt nauseated to the point of throwing up every night when he went to bed.

“Thursday (Jan. 12) I told Debbie, ‘I think you’re going to have to take me to the hospital’,” he recalls. “I’m very much a numbers person, but I couldn’t concentrate on anything.”

His wife, meanwhile, said she felt much more tired than usual.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning start with headache, nausea and vomiting before moving on to lethargy and confusion and finally coma and death.

Meador said most carbon monoxide detectors are designed to sound at 35 parts per million, but he could not determine how all the Moses family’s CO detectors were set up.

At the family’s request, Meador and fire inspectors Larry Ball and Brad Gillmar visited their home to confirm that all the carbon monoxide detectors, including a new combination detector Dow Moses installed Jan. 14, were in working order.

“It’s possible the levels were too minute to set them off,” Meador said.

But beside alerting the Moses family to their problem Jan. 13, Todd Robinson had a theory about why the detectors didn’t sound. He said a door separated the lower-level detector from the water heater and that the nearby furnace was what probably distributed the toxic gas throughout the home.

The two detectors installed by the mortgage company are within the required 15 feet from all rooms used for sleeping but neither is anywhere near a heat register and thus may have not been optimally positioned to detect the problem early.

The desk where Dow Moses worked and the crate where the puppies slept, on the other hand, are close to furnace vents.

Deb Moses believes at 3,200 square feet, the size of their house might have given them some protection.

Her husband added, “The concentration was enough to kill a little dog, but not enough to kill us, thank God.”

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Source: Herald & Review, https://bit.ly/2kEnUAi

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Information from: Herald & Review, https://www.herald-review.com


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