An 11-year-old Massachusetts boy died of carbon monoxide poisoning on Saturday after he sat in a running car for warmth while his father was shoveling snow to get the car out of a snow bank.
The tragic incident occurred on 3 Nazing Street, Dorchester at about 11:40 a.m.
The boy had been helping his father shovel snow when he got cold and decided to take a break from shoveling in the blizzard.
Boston.com reports that Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald, said that after the boy and his father had shoveled away the snow from the passenger side of the sedan, the boy, feeling cold, went into the car. His father started the engine to keep him warm. Emergency officials say the tailpipe of the car was covered by a snow bank which caused the exhaust fumes to build up in the car. The boy became sick from inhaling the colorless, odorless but toxic fumes of carbon monoxide and stopped breathing.
WCVB.com reports that Shakiena Phifer who lives in the neighborhood, said: "I'm assuming the son got cold, and the father told him to go in the car and get warm. And then the next thing you know, he started screaming, 'He’s not breathing. He's not breathing,'"
She continued: "The father brings the boy into my hallway and lays him on the ground. Then he goes back outside and collapses himself."
A Boston firefighter Octavius Rowe, who also lives in the neighborhood, said: "I don't know how long the boy was in the car, at some point the father was still working and was unaware of the boy's condition. So very, very unfortunate."
Boston.com reports that Jennifer Mehigan, a spokeswoman for Boston EMS, said the boy was probably in the car for only 10 to 15 minutes. She said the car was covered with snow and the poisonous gas could not escape through the muffler.
According to AP, when the father noticed that his son had stopped breathing, he went into respiratory arrest out of shock. Emergency workers rushed both father and son to the Boston Medical Center, where the boy was pronounced dead. According to officials, the boy had a cardiac arrest and two neighbors, including medical workers and firefighters, applied CPR. The boy appeared to recover but was later pronounced dead at the hospital. The father who was also taken to the hospital remains in a serious condition with a heart issue, local officials say.
Rowe said he was at home when he was alerted to emergency in the street. When he went outside, he saw the father laying on a snow bank. He said: "I came over to the car where it all started and the father appeared to have lost consciousness. He was semi-conscious and laying on the snow bank, and I wanted to first get him off that cold surface."
Rowe put the man on a flat surface and tried to revive him. The boy had been taken into an apartment where a woman was administering CPR. Paramedics from the fire department and Emergency Medical Services arrived later. They provided oxygen and managed to stabilize the man before transporting him and his son to the BMC. After the man had been provided oxygen, emergency workers tried to engage him in conversation to keep him alert.
Rowe said: "He was responsive so we were able to, at least, get him up, get him to the stairs. He did say, `My son, my son,' so he knew his son was involved or was in distress. We were talking to him. He was moaning, but the only discernible thing that he said was `My son.'"
AP reports that fire officials said the incident was the latest in a series of similar recent incidents. According to fire officials, on Saturday on Woolson Street in Mattapan, a man was found dead in a car with the engine running. CBS Local reports the man was a young man in his early 20s. According to Boston.com, officials believe the car's tailpipe was blocked by snow, allowing toxic gas to build up in the car.
Fire Department spokesman MacDonald, said: “Neighbors told us the guy was in the car since 11 a.m Saturday morning. They broke the window and there was no response."
In yet another incident at 156 Porter St. in East Boston, two children, brother and sister, 4 and 7 respectively, were found unconscious inside a car at around 5 p.m. They were trying to keep warm in the car. They were rushed to a hospital and treated for carbon monoxide poisoning. Police say the children are expected to survive, Boston.com reports.
Meanwhile, police have issued a safety alert, asking people to ensure that their cars’ tailpipes are clear of snow before starting the vehicle. People have also been advised to check their dryer and furnace vents at home.
Boston.com reports that an official said: "People have not seen this much snow in a long time. They’re not focused on making sure they clear the snow from the exhaust pipe before putting anyone inside. Carbon monoxide fills the car pretty quickly... People are not focused on it when they are shoveling."