Raleigh death draws attention to carbon monoxide poisoning

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A woman died Sunday and her husband was in an area hospital Monday after police say someone accidentally left a vehicle running in the closed garage at their Raleigh home.

A relative found Sarah Fernside Tanner, 64, of 2602 Askew Drive, dead inside the home from carbon monoxide fumes, police said.

James Mahan Tanner Jr., 64, was taken to Duke University Hospital in Durham for treatment. He was in intensive care Monday afternoon.

Police initially reported that someone unintentionally pressed the remote-start button for the car. They later determined that the car was accidentally left running.

Wake County Medical Director Dr. Brent Myers said cases like this are all too common in winter. Several people die each year, usually from using heaters or letting their vehicles warm up in enclosed spaces, he said.

“The cases are always tragic because it's a very difficult thing to get your brain around,” Myers said. “It’s kind of the perfect storm. You’ve got something you can’t smell, you can’t taste and you can’t detect, and the first thing that it does to you is put you to sleep. So, it’s a dangerous situation.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning – including headache, dizziness, weakness and nausea – but that it can be difficult to diagnose because they mimic other illnesses.

Emergency officials recommend using a carbon monoxide detector that is plugged into the wall, so that it does not lose power, and placed in sleeping areas on each level of the home, away from cooking or heating devices.

Prevention guidelines from the CDC also include:

  • Having heating systems, water heaters and other gas-, oil-, or coal-burning appliances services by a qualified technician every year.
  • Seeking prompt medical attention if carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected.
  • Avoiding the use of generators, grills and other gasoline- or charcoal-burning devices inside the home, basement, garage or near a window.
  • Avoiding running a vehicle inside a garage attached to a house, even if the garage door is open.