Carbon monoxide poisoning nearly claims Basalt couple
BASALT – A couple staying in a Basalt residence was found unconscious in their bed Thursday morning in a near-fatal case of carbon monoxide poisoning, authorities said.
The man and woman were taken to Aspen Valley Hospital, then airlifted to a Denver hospital. Their identities weren’t released Thursday and investigators said they were uncertain if they lived full-time in the residence or were visiting. The woman is believed to be in her 60s and the man in his 70s.
They were discovered in a bedroom of a unit at The Wilds, 207 Wildsprings Lane, at about 8:38 a.m. by another couple staying in the residence, according to Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson. That couple opened the windows and called 911.
Ventilating the unit helped save their lives and it allowed emergency responders to treat the unconscious couple sooner, Thompson said.
Thompson said the victims were taken to the hospital in “very serious condition.”
Basalt Police Officer Mike Taylor said indications later in the day were that the couple was “going to be fine.”
“It could have been a bad situation for all four of them,” Taylor said. “It could have been gravely worse. I think it’s going to have a good ending.”
The couple who discovered the victims declined transport to the hospital by ambulance and drove themselves. Taylor said it was his understanding that the couple intended to return to the unit after it checked out safe. A neighboring unit tested negative for carbon monoxide.
Taylor said he doesn’t believe foul play was involved but he found “puzzling” circumstances in the incident.
A car had been running in a closed garage that is attached to the unit. The ignition was still on but the car had run out of gas and the battery was nearly dead when rescuers discovered it, Thompson said.
Taylor said it hadn’t been determined yet if the car was left running Wednesday night or if it had been started Thursday morning to warm up. Investigators are seeking answers on why the vehicle was running with the garage door down.
A carbon monoxide detector was removed from the ceiling in the hallway outside of the victims’ bedroom, Thompson said. The detector was discovered under the bed of the victims, he said. The battery had been removed.
Taylor said it is unknown at this point when the detector was removed.
Investigators said they were certain the car was the source of the carbon monoxide. The house was checked by the natural gas company and no sources of carbon monoxide were discovered in the structure, Taylor said.
“It may just be bad luck that took place,” Taylor said of the odd string of events. “It was good there was another couple there.”
This is the second holiday period in which carbon monoxide poisoning was an issue in the Roaring Fork Valley. A Denver family of four died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a house they rented 4 miles east of Aspen on Thanksgiving weekend 2008. Parker Lofgren, 39; his wife, Caroline, 42; and their children, Owen, 10, and Sophie, 8, were found in the bedrooms of the home.
An investigation by the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office concluded a disconnected exhaust pipe that stretched from the boiler to a chimney flue enabled carbon monoxide to get into the home and kill the Lofgren family.
“We’re real lucky. It could have easily been four people again,” Thompson said of Thursday’s incident.
The Lofgrens’ deaths led the Colorado Legislature to pass a law this year that will require most homes in the state to be fitted with carbon monoxide detectors. Homes and apartments offered for sale or transfer after July 1, 2009, have to be equipped with detectors near bedrooms. The detectors will also have to be put in homes and apartments that are renovated or enlarged or after July 1.
It couldn’t be immediately determined if the carbon monoxide detector was legally required at 207 Wildsprings Lane, where the victims were sleeping in a bedroom on an upper floor of the residence while the other couple was in a lower bedroom.
Thompson said carbon monoxide tends to rise slightly when trapped in a structure. That explains why one couple but not the other was knocked unconscious by the odorless gas, he said.
The incident is another reminder that everyone should have a working carbon monoxide detector in their homes, he said.
The Basalt Police Department, Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and Basalt Fire-Rescue all acted to save the victims.
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Colorado’s Western Slope is considered a climate hot spot where temperatures are increasing faster than the global average. This warming has contributed to more than 20 years of dryness, which scientists are calling a megadrought.