NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — After four local young adults died of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning in Maine, local fire officials are reminding people to be careful of the dangers of the gas.
The four were found dead at a cabin in Byron, Maine, by relatives on Friday night. They were staying at the cabin to celebrate a birthday and a recent high-school graduation.
Police in Maine identified them Saturday as 21 year-old Brooke Wakelin and 23 year-old Keith Norris of Attleboro, and 18 year-old Matthew Wakelin and 22 year-old Deana Lee Powers of Mansfield.
The apparent cause was carbon monoxide produced by a gasoline-powered generator that was in the basement. It was the only source of power for the cabin and police found that it had run out of fuel by Friday night, indicating that the victims had died perhaps as early as Tuesday.
Sunday, local firefighters reiterated the dangers of carbon monoxide, pointing out that although carbon monoxide deaths are not common during the summer months, they can occur anytime. Typically there are more carbon monoxide incidents during the winter when people are heating their homes.
“It’s a problem any time you are using equipment to produce energy,” Captain Ron Darling of the North Attleboro Fire Department said. “It’s as simple as that: when you’re producing energy with fossil fuels, you’re producing carbon monoxide.”
The gas is invisible, odorless, and colorless, but will cause several symptoms in people who are exposed to high levels of it.
“You can get headaches, your skin color can get cherry red,” Darling said. “You’re just generally feeling terrible.”
Police in Maine said that it appears the generator was left on when the four people in the cabin went to bed. All four victims were found in beds on the first and second floors, indicating that they succumbed while they slept.
Carbon monoxide detectors can save lives, Darling said, and so it is important to make sure that if you have one, it has functioning batteries.
But more importantly, Darling said that if you are using a generator, always follow the directions from the manufacturer and never use it inside – even if you do think you have adequately ventilated the area.