St. Petersburg, FL – Following the accidental death of two East Bay High School students who were found in an SUV in a closed garage on Monday, authorities are reminding people about the dangers of carbon monoxide.
St. Petersburg police said the two teens, Dorian Gomez Poehlmann, 17, and his girlfriend Emily Sabow, 14, parked their SUV in the garage at Poehlmann’s mother’s home in St. Petersburg’s Country Club Villas sometime Sunday evening and stayed inside with the engine running and the garage door shut. Carbon monoxide fumes filled the air and they drifted into unconsciousness.
Their bodies were discovered Monday morning after their families searched for them through the night. Police say their deaths were an accident.
The teens both lived in Riverview.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas called the “silent killer” because it often goes undetected.
It’s produced by burning fuel in stoves, vehicles and other small engines. When the gas builds up in enclosed spaces, whoever breathes it can be poisoned.
“There’s no way to know it’s present without a carbon monoxide detector,” said Ricky Stasiowski, assistant chief at Clearwater Fire Rescue.
“It’s clear, it’s odorless it’s a gas,” he said. “It blocks the ability for the body to use oxygen in the bloodstream. The detector is the only line of defense.”
Steven Lawrence, spokesman for St. Petersburg Fire Rescue, said after the teens passed out in the garage with the car running, the carbon monoxide continued to compound.
“Being in a confined space, such as a garage, the level is going to increase over the course of time,” he said. “The carbon monoxide isn’t going to ventilate or disperse.”
People are affected differently depending on their body mass and the amount of carbon dioxide present.
“It depends on the individual children, they breathe faster and are usually smaller, it’s going to affect kids more quickly than adults,” Stasiowski said.
“There’s no set number on how quickly it can affect you, but any exposure can be dangerous.”
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, nausea and more seriously, confusion, vomiting and falling into unconsciousness, according to the National Safety Council ( tbtim.es/tkl).
The best thing people can do is install detectors in their homes, Stasiowski said.
The NSC advises that if the alarm sounds, don’t try to find the source of the gas, instead, move outside to fresh air, call 911 and make sure everyone is accounted for.
Don’t enter the home again until emergency responders okay it.
“In this instance,” Lawrence said, “it was a vehicle that just continued to run.The teens were probably overcome with the carbon monoxide and probably passed out, then, from that point, unfortunately passed away.”