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Lack of venting system behind fatal carbon monoxide leak near Ashcroft: B.C. Safety Authority

Melissa Penner (centre) with her two children Kaylex and Ay.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/GoFundMe
April 10, 2017 - 4:17 PM

VENABLES VALLEY - The cause of carbon monoxide exposure that left a family of four dead near Ashcroft has been revealed by the B.C. Safety Authority.

In an investigation report, the safety authority says the lack of a venting system in the family's home caused carbon monoxide exposure, which is believed to be what took the lives of Melissa Penner, her two young children, Kaylex and Ay, and her partner Harvey Volaine.

The B.C. Coroners Service said last month it believed the March 24 deaths were attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning, but did not confirm the identities of the deceased. According to the safety authority, the Coroners Service is further investigating the cause of deaths.

The safety authority says in its investigation report that a water heater was installed in the home but no vent system was attached. The water heater was tankless and on demand, which means cold water could be heated instantly by a high output propane burner when a hot water tap was opened.

According to the report, the hazardous levels of carbon monoxide were due to "extended operation of the water heater."

"We are saddened by the tragedy in Ashcroft," safety authority gas safety manager Brad Wyatt says. "When our safety officers investigated the site, we found that the water heater was not vented to the outdoors which means toxic gases were released inside the home while the water heater burner was in use."

Carbon monoxide is an odourless, colourless gas produced by burning carbon fuels. Exposure to the gas interferes with the body's ability to absorb oxygen which could lead to illness or death.

"For safety, it is always best to have a licensed contractor perform any gas work," Wyatt says. "Gas-fired appliances should be serviced by a licensed gas contractor at least once a year. It’s also important to have CO detectors on each floor of a home."

BCSA says carbon monoxide exposure symptoms can initially be flu-like, but more severe carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms can include chest pains, vomiting and convulsions. Children are at particular risk because they are affected by lower levels of the gas.


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