Couple’s deaths likely from carbon monoxide

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

RAYMOND — The deaths of an elderly couple in their eighties at their home off Raymond Cape Road here earlier this week were likely the result of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to police.

Deputies from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office and Fire and Rescue personnel from the Raymond Fire Department responded to 76 Musson Road around 1:30 Tuesday afternoon, following a report of an unconscious male inside the residence.

First reports indicated that a neighbor had been at the residence Tuesday, Aug. 30 to check on the occupants who hadn’t been heard from that day. When the neighbor arrived on scene he found the unconscious elderly male and female inside the home.

The couple were identified as Lewis Somers III, 85, and his wife, Elizabeth Somers, 84, of Lafayette, Pa. The couple live in Pennsylvania, but have a seasonal home in Raymond.

Raymond firefighters entered the residence and confirmed that the two occupants were in fact deceased. Firefighters suspected carbon monoxide poisoning and took a reading with a carbon monoxide meter. The levels were extremely high, and a generator was running in the basement of the home, at the time. Police said it appeared the house may have been without power, as a result of the recent tropical storm.

“We are early in our investigation, and we suspect, at this time, that the high levels of carbon monoxide may have been a contributing factor in the two deaths,” Captain Jeff Davis of the Sheriff’s Office said Aug. 30.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has received reports of carbon monoxide poisonings from generators being improperly run in garages in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. With several thousands of Maine households still without power, health officials are reissuing safety warnings for people using gas-powered generators as alternate power supplies.

Carbon monoxide safety

“People may be tempted to run their generators in their garages or very close to their home, but this is extremely dangerous,” said State Toxicologist Dr. Andrew Smith. Along with Maine, there have been several reports of carbon monoxide poisonings across the East Coast, including at least one death. All of these poisonings were caused by improper use of generators.

“Gas-powered generators should always be used outside and placed at least 15 feet from windows and doors, including neighboring homes or buildings,” said Smith. “Every home should also have a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector with fresh batteries. This is especially important for those folks running generators right now.”

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas formed when burning most types of fuels. Using gas-powered generators can cause poisoning if CO gas builds up in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces, like garages, even if windows and doors are left open.

Warning signs of CO poisoning are flu symptoms like headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, and confusion, but no fever. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause coma and death.

How to prevent CO poisoning during power outages

Place the generator outdoors in the fresh air. Keep it at least 15 feet from windows or doors. Do not put a generator in a closed or partly-closed space, like a basement, cellar bulkhead, or attached garage. Carbon monoxide can build up to dangerous levels in these spaces.

Do not use outdoor cooking devices, such as grills or camp stoves, indoors.

Place a carbon monoxide detector that is battery powered (or has battery back-up power) outside each sleeping area. CO detectors are available in most stores. Look for the UL mark with the “Single Station Carbon Monoxide Alarm” statement.

If you suspect CO poisoning

Leave the house at once.

Call the fire department or 911.

Get medical attention.

Call the Poison Center (1-800-222-1222) or your doctor after you leave the house.

Do not go back into the building until the fire department tells you it is safe.

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