CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. — Authorities in Clackamas County have released new information Wednesday about four recent deaths suspected to have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.
The deaths involved three separate incidents in the county over a three-day period, following a winter storm that knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of people in the Portland metro area.
The first incident was on Saturday when a person died after igniting charcoal briquets in a small closed area in order to stay warm, a Clackamas County Sheriff’s spokesman said.
Then on Sunday, a man and his dog were in an RV where a propane heater appears to have malfunctioned. Both the man and his dog died.
And finally on Monday, two people who had lost power to their home were inside their RV where again, a propane heater appears to have malfunctioned.
In all three cases, the medical examiner suspects carbon monoxide poisoning as the cause of death.
Clackamas County spokesperson Kimberly Dinwiddie said the four who died were a man in his 40s, another man in his 50s and a man and a woman who were both in their 80s.
One of the challenges of mass power outages is that people can't easily get safety messages through the news or other sources because televisions and computers won’t power up. Dinwiddie suggests now that the roads are safer to travel, it’s a good idea to check on neighbors, friends and family who are still in the cold and dark.
“Please go to them go check on them; make sure they have everything they need to be safe, to safely stay warm,” said Dinwiddie.
And if you're checking on folks, it's important to know the symptoms, which include headache, nausea, some light headedness, possibly vomiting and sometimes chest tightness or feeling confused or disoriented.
Dr. Rob Hendrickson, medical director at the Oregon Poison Center, said if you start to feel sick like that, get out of the house. Carbon monoxide poisoning can set in quickly. And if your symptoms warrant it, call 911.
“It depends on how much carbon monoxide is being produced. It depends on the situation and it depends on how large the space is,” said Hendrickson.
One key safety item that every home should have is a carbon monoxide detector. And once you have one, make sure the battery is good to go. It could save your life.