Mum tells of family's lucky escape after carbon monoxide gas leak
A mother has told how her young son fell sick from carbon monoxide poisoning hours after another West Country family of three was found dead – with the deadly gas the suspected killer.
Julie Beale, of Wellington, Somerset, told how her husband, Graham, and children Megan, 13 and Oliver, ten nearly went to bed unaware that their semi-detached house was filling with the gas.
The drama unfolded on Saturday night just hours after John Cook, 90, his wife, Audrey, 86, and their daughter, Maureen, 46, were found dead with their Jack Russell dog in their caravan park home in Camborne, Cornwall.
Mrs Beale said a carbon monoxide alarm eventually alerted her family to their danger. They called firefighters who alerted paramedics and the whole family was taken to Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, where Oliver was given oxygen until 8am yesterday to clear his system. Megan was given oxygen until 4am.
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Mrs Beale said: “It was my birthday and I had just popped out for a meal.
“My husband was at home with the children and about 7.30pm Oliver said he was feeling sick. It never occurred to my husband that carbon monoxide could be the problem.
“Then about 9.30pm the carbon monoxide alarm went off and my husband rang me. I said ‘get out of the house’.
“My husband wasn’t sure if it was the fire alarm.
“A neighbour is a fireman and came and checked and told us to phone the fire brigade. They found high levels of carbon monoxide everywhere. It is lighter than air so it was up in the roof too. The children were just going to bed when the alarm went off. We are very very lucky. We had only had the alarm about ten months. When the gas boiler was serviced last year the chap recommended that we have one and it was only £20. It has to be positioned high up – it’s on top of the kitchen cupboards.
“Although we have the gas boiler I think it may have been caused by the coal fire, although the chimney has been swept, because Oliver was in the room with the fire most of the afternoon.
“The house has been ventilated and British Gas came out today but they are not allowed to do anything yet because the children were hospitalised and the fire brigade came they have to wait for an independent assessor to come and check it. British Gas has given us some heaters because we can’t use the boiler again yet.”
In the Cornish tragedy emergency services rushed to Tremarle Caravan Park at 1pm on Saturday after the elderly couple’s helper raised the alarm when no one answered the door.
Fire fighters forced their way into the property after spotting one of the victims slumped in a chair. It is believed that the family died from carbon monoxide poisoning, possibly due to fumes from a heater in the static caravan.
Shocked friends and neighbours of the couple paid tribute to them as “lovely”.
Nic Clark, 52, who was good friends with daughter Maureen, added: “They were a lovely kind family, a great trio.”
Yesterday, flowers were being placed at the gates of the neat caravan’s well-tended garden and neighbours spoke of their shock at the deaths.
Julie Boon, 55, summed up the feelings of many. “The whole community is in shock. We are just devastated,” she said. “I have known them for 20 years. They were lovely people, really nice people.
“I saw them on Thursday and everything was fine with them.”
Linda Barr, 84, who lives opposite the Cook family home, became tearful when she recalled a “lovely family.”
“I knew them quite well and they were really nice people,” she said. “John hadn’t been very well recently and was keeping indoors a bit more and Audrey was just a lovely lady.
“Everyone is just shocked that all three of them have gone like that.”
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said: “An investigation is being carried out into the cause of the deaths by police and the fire service but there are not thought to be any suspicious circumstances at this stage.”
Carbon monoxide is a colourless and odourless gas known as the “silent killer”.
The most common cause of poisoning in domestic situations is from incorrectly maintained gas heating or cooking equipment.