Ligonier, IN- Jerry Sprague is used to helping people. To get his help, people usually call the Ligonier Fire Department, where he is the assistant chief.

But a call for help Monday night came to him in person.

His neighbors’ son rode a bicycle about 100 yards to Sprague’s home about 9:30 p.m. He was pleading for help.

His two brothers, ages 12 and 14, were in the family’s basement and unconscious.

Those boys, Michael and Lyle Herschberger, died Monday in their rural Noble County home after being exposed to carbon monoxide.

Sprague notified the fire department and sheriff’s office. He then went to the home, at 5009 W. County Road 100 North in Ligonier, to offer help.

“It was too late to help the boys,” he said.

After being exposed to carbon monoxide for a significant period, the gas enters the blood stream, saturating the body and making resuscitation by CPR difficult, he said.

“It was difficult for me,because I knew them,” Sprague said. “It’s just a tragic loss for the family.”

The brothers were pronounced dead at the scene.

The boys’ parents left the home just before 6 p.m. to buy groceries. Deputies said the boys were instructed to fill a water tank for the family’s horses while their parents were gone.

The brothers were in a small basement when they succumbed to carbon monoxide emitted from a leaking gasoline engine-driven pump. The pump was supplying water to a tank near a barn, deputies said.

A piece of flexible tubing attached to the muffler on the motor leading outside broke, allowing carbon monoxide to seep inside the basement, Sheriff Gary Leatherman said.

“When the officers arrived, they detected a strong (gasoline) odor coming from the motor running,” he said.

Under high levels of exposure, people may pass out immediately from inhaling carbon monoxide, Noble County Coroner Dr. Terry Gaff said.

“People generally are exposed to lower levels and start getting the headache and confusion,” he said. “But in a situation where there is a really high concentration, then people can get poisoned by the carbon monoxide quite rapidly and not realize that it’s going on.”

Gaff ruled the deaths due to the carbon monoxide.

Sprague said he has lived next door to the Herschberger family for more than 10 years and was well acquainted with the boys.

“These kids were really good, very well mannered,” he said, adding that they would often come over to swim at the Sprague family pool.

Michael enjoyed deer hunting, and both boys liked to shoot targets, Sprague said.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Yeager Funeral Home in Ligonier.

The boys, who attended West Noble Middle School, are survived by their parents, David and Arlene Herschberger, and five siblings.

The deaths come less than a week after a Whitley County man saved his wife and children from a home filled with carbon monoxide due to a blocked chimney and after another carbon monoxide scare in Angola.

On Thursday, firefighters from the Richland Township Fire Department and paramedics responded to the home in southwest Whitley County after the man found his wife unconscious on the floor. He took her from the house and then went back for the children.

The recent news had safety officials urging caution when it comes to carbon monoxide.

“People should get carbon monoxide detectors and place them in the proper places in their homes,” Leatherman said. “Just a little bit of protection goes a long way.”

Also last week, Angola firefighters responded to a close call with carbon monoxide.

Angola fire spokesman T.R. Hagerty said his department responded to a home after a carbon monoxide detector went off and the residents ignored it. The call for help came after the residents became ill, he said.

When firefighters arrived, they found high levels of the toxic gas in the home, Hagerty said. Fortunately, everyone recovered.

“If you’ve got a detector and it goes off, don’t ignore it,” Hagerty said.