Archive for Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Carbon monoxide kills woman

June 20, 2001

An 81-year-old Tonganoxie woman died last week apparently of carbon-monoxide poisoning.

According to Tonganoxie police Sgt. John Putthoff, the body of Lola Belle Church was discovered by a neighbor who was worried about her well-being.

"The idea was if her newspaper was lying out there after a certain time, to come check on her," Putthoff said.

Although police have not received toxicology tests results yet, Putthoff said the cause of Church's death appears to have been from carbon-monoxide poisoning. He said she had had problems with a furnace a few years ago, but workers took care of that. Carbon monoxide detectors were in the home.

"But she had unplugged them," Putthoff said.

The sergeant, who entered the house, said he could feel the effects of the poisonous gas.

"I could tell," he said. "There was just something. I had burning eyes. It was pretty strong, so I asked for the fire department, and they ran their check, and the levels were pretty high."

Charlie Conrad, Tonganoxie fire chief, said carbon monoxide is extremely dangerous. It's unusual for carbon-monoxide poisonings to occur in the summer, he said, but Church's furnace apparently was running at the time of her death. Hot water tanks, too, can emit carbon monoxide.

"It's a silent killer," Conrad said. "You just don't know. In the summertime, it becomes very dangerous because you're not suspecting it at all."

Conrad said people who have been exposed to carbon monoxide can experience flu-like symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

"You'd be a little lethargic," said Conrad, who works for Leavenworth County Emergency Medical Services.

Conrad suggests that every building have working carbon monoxide detectors.

An obituary for Mrs. Church appears on page 2A.

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