ACUSHNET (CBS) — Fire officials say a furnace leak caused the carbon monoxide poisoning deaths of a father and son in an Acushnet home.
During a press conference Thursday, Acushnet Fire Chief Kevin Gallagher said there were no carbon monoxide detectors in the Buttonwood Lane home where Joseph Lopes, 41, and Collin Lopes, 9, were found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning Wednesday morning.
“Yesterday was a tragic and very difficult day for the residents of the town of Acushnet. The incident that occurred was a direct result of a carbon monoxide leak,” Gallagher said. “This tragedy is made even more difficult due to the absence of carbon monoxide detectors in the home. The occupants of that house had no indication that the carbon monoxide levels were steadily increasing and reached the level that resulted in their death.”
Emergency crews said carbon monoxide levels in the home were very high when they entered, exceeding 400 parts per million at the door and 3000 in the basement where the leaking furnace was located. Carbon monoxide detectors sound at 30 parts per million, Gallagher said.
The pair likely died in their sleep, officials said. They were discovered after Collin Lopes’ mother and Joseph Lopes’ ex-wife couldn’t reach the pair Tuesday night or Wednesday morning and grew worried.
Collin attended Acushnet Elementary School, but he did not show up Wednesday morning, tipping his mother off that something might be wrong. On Thursday, school superintendent Stephen Donovan said crisis counselors would be on hand for students.
“We are saddened by the loss of Collin Lopes, a fourth grade student at the Acushnet Elementary School, and his father. Collin had an infectious smile and was beloved by the students and staff alike. He will be sorely missed,” Donovan said in a statement. “Members of our Building Crisis Team will be working with our counselors and other staff members to help students and staff deal with their feelings and emotions regarding this sad event. Additional grief counselors will also be available to assist our students and staff in coping with this tragic loss. Thursday’s parent-teacher conferences will be rescheduled. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time.”
Outside the home Thursday, Collin’s brothers came back to the basketball hoop they knew so well. The oldest of the three Lopes boys had a message. “I just want to let them, my dad and my brother know that I love them and everything I do from this day forward is for them, and I think my brother feels the same way,” Tyler Lopes said.
In addition to counselors, Gallagher said the fire department will educate students in Acushnet schools about carbon monoxide at Donovan’s request. The students, Gallagher said, are “at a loss.
WBZ-TV’s Louisa Moller reports
Gallagher and state Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey called on residents to educate themselves on carbon monoxide dangers, and ensure they have working detectors in very level of their homes.
“Carbon monoxide is a silent, colorless, odorless, tasteless killer that really is something we have to be concerned about,” Ostroskey said.
Symptoms of poisoning are similar to those of the flu. Gallagher said anyone who experiences a sudden onset of flu-like symptoms including nausea, vomiting or headache should be suspicious of carbon monoxide. If a carbon monoxide detector is going off, Gallagher urged resident to leave their homes and call 911.
In the wake of Lopes’ deaths, Gallagher challenged Acushnet residents to turn their grief into action. He asked residents to purchase a carbon monoxide and smoke detector for their loved ones this holiday season.
“It isn’t the most glamorous Christmas gift, but it’s the one that would truly come from the heart,” he said.