Children improving; No working detectors in Smithfield house

Three children and their mother remained hospitalized Thursday after they were exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide in their Smithfield home.

“It was extremely high,” Smithfield Fire Chief Robert Seltzer told NBC 10 News, noting that carbon monoxide levels were 700 times more than the safe limit. “It was extremely dangerous.”

The children -- ages 7, 9 and 11 -- were in stable condition and recovering in the intensive care unit at Hasbro Children's Hospital. Seltzer said their prognosis looks good.

Their mother, 47-year-old Kristen Latour, was at Fatima Hospital in critical condition. She remained unconscious.

“Our prayers and thoughts with the family, and especially the mom, and hopefully she has a healthy recovery, but right now it's a little touch and go,” Seltzer said.

Lawrence Latour, 47, the children’s father, was taken to the hospital for evaluation and released Wednesday night. The children’s names have not been released.

Dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide filled the home on Pleasant View Avenue Wednesday. Seltzer said a blockage in the heating system released the colorless and odorless gas.

"Preliminarily, looking at the cause, it appears an issue with an oil-fired burner and heating system that generated very high levels of carbon monoxide," Seltzer said.

Firefighters said Lawrence was working in the garage that night. When he went back inside the house, his wife and three children were unconscious.

The blockage in the heating pipe pushed carbon monoxide back into the home, where Kristen and the children were.

Seltzer, who said investigators aren’t sure how long the family was exposed to the dangerous gas, also noted that there were no operating carbon monoxide or smoke detectors in the house.

"For some reason, they had been removed and the batteries were not in them. We don't know the exact reason," Seltzer said.

Elena Donahue, who is the director at the Little Gym in town where the Latour children go, has started a GoFundMe page to support them, raising more than $8,000 in its first 8 hours.

“It's definitely a time that they're going to need a lot of support,” Donahue told NBC 10. “I think not only the donations are great, but it also shows how many people support them emotionally as well.”

Donahue went on to describe them as a “really great family.”

“The kids are wonderful. The parents are wonderful. Always so happy,” she said. “My heart went out to them.”

The home is owned by the Greenville Library, which eventually plans to demolish the home and add another road into the library. Seltzer said the home had working carbon monoxide detectors when firefighters inspected it about a year ago. That was before the current tenants moved into the house.

Carbon monoxide can get into the air of a home from fuel-burning appliances not being properly installed and also from chimneys not being used properly.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, and nausea. If exposure continues, the symptoms get worse and can include confusion, chest pain, and seizures.

The Centers for Disease Control offer these tips for preventing carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Never use a gas range or oven to heat a home
  • Never leave the motor running in a vehicle parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as a garage
  • Never run a motor vehicle, generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine outside an open window, door, or vent where exhaust can vent into an enclosed area
  • Never run a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage, or other enclosed structure, even if the doors or windows are open, unless the equipment is professionally installed and vented. Keep vents and flues free of debris, especially if winds are high. Flying debris can block ventilation lines
  • Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern, or portable camping stove inside a home, tent, or camper
  • If conditions are too hot or too cold, seek shelter with friends or at a community shelter

“The message is clear. You've got to have smoke detectors and you've got to have carbon monoxide detectors,” Seltzer said.

Click here for more information about the GoFundMe page.

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