Furnace source of Acushnet carbon monoxide deaths, no detectors found in home

By: News Staff

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Reporting By: Melissa Randall/Alana Cerrone

A leaking furnace is to blame for the tragedy in Acushnet, according to fire officials. A father and son were found dead in their home Wednesday of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless; meaning Joseph Lopes and his son Collin, 9, likely never saw it coming. Acushnet Fire chief Kevin Gallagher says the amount of gas found in the second floor room where the pair died was in excess of 2,600 parts per million. A standard carbon monoxide detector alarm is set off at just 30.

The problem officials say, is that there were no working detectors inside the walls of the home on Buttonwood Lane. A broken furnace leaked and exposed the Lopes family to the deadly gas for an undetermined amount of time before it inevitably killed them.

"By all indications the occupants of that house had no indication that the co levels were steadily increasing and resulted in their death," said Chief Gallagher during a press conference Thursday morning.

Fire officials say it’s incredibly important to have working detectors. In fact, it’s the law. Massachusetts requires one on every floor, and in every room where a person puts their head on a pillow.

Peter Ostroskey, State Fire Marshal for Massachusetts, issued a safety message to all, saying carbon monoxide detectors should be up to code, tested regularly, and that batteries in the devices should be replaced yearly. He added that once the alarm sounds, residents should get out right away and call 9-1-1.

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning mimic the flu: dull headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, and shortness of breath. Some people also report confusion, blurred vision or loss of consciousness.

Meanwhile, grief counselors are at Acushnet Elementary school to help Collin’s teachers and friends cope with the devastating loss. Superintendent Stephen Donovan says Collin was beloved by the students and staff. He also sent a letter to parents with advice on how to help children grieve.

The school district has asked the fire department to come in and help Collin’s teachers and friends better understand what carbon monoxide is and how to make their homes safer. That will happen some time next week.

© WLNE-TV 2016