Carbon Monoxide Poisoning from Broken Refrigerator Kills Child in Alaska

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A family in Alaska has suffered an unimaginable tragedy after their son died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty refrigerator while they were on vacation.

According to the Alaska Daily News, Sarah Klebs was with two of her children at the family’s vacation home on August 20, and she had no idea there was something wrong with the refrigerator. The first day went fine, and then when her daughter woke up with a headache, she gave her a couple Advil and sent her back to bed. When both kids started throwing up the next day, she thought it was the flu. But it was really the early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Klebs’ oldest son was at a sleepover at a friend’s house that night, which likely saved his life as well as those of Sarah and her daughter, Caroline. When Sarah didn’t show up to pick him up the next morning, the other family got worried and drove over. They found the little girl and boy unconscious, and Sarah so disoriented she couldn’t stand.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms

Confusion is a symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning. Sarah doesn’t remember much of that night, but she remembers seeing increasingly frantic text messages asking if she was OK. She read them but did not respond to them.

Sarah and her daughter were rushed to Seattle for emergency medical treatment. Tragically, 10-year-old Gavin died of carbon monoxide poisoning. They don’t know why he died and the other two did not.

The cabin’s propane-powered refrigerator turned out to be the source of the carbon monoxide. Sarah’s husband, Matt, is a mechanical engineer and says it was in good condition and he maintained it regularly. At some point it malfunctioned, though, and started filling the cabin with poisonous carbon monoxide.

“How would you know?” Sarah said. “Prior to this, I never would have thought about it.”

The cabin did not have a carbon monoxide detector. The family had planned to put one in during the winter.

Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless. The symptoms of exposure are so much like flu symptoms that it’s easy to miss. If a leak happens in the night, it’s not uncommon for people to die in their sleep. The best way to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning is to have carbon monoxide detectors in the home.

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(H/t CafeMom, Image: GoFundMe / Klebs Family Assistance)