By Tom Gilchrist-TIMES WRITER
Police believe poisonous carbon monoxide caused the death Tuesday of a 14-year-old Caseville girl and sickened her parents.
Erika Willenberg, a Caseville High School freshman, died Tuesday morning after her father found her unconscious before 7 a.m.
Erika’s father, Ben Willenberg, and her mother, Dana Willenberg, are recovering from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at The Toledo Hospital.
The hospital has several hyperbaric chambers, in which victims of carbon-monoxide poisoning receive treatment to increase the amount of oxygen in their bodies.
According to police and firefighters in Huron County, Ben Willenberg took his wife to Scheurer Hospital in Pigeon at about 3 a.m. Tuesday after Dana Willenberg complained of headache and nausea at the family’s home at 7245 Port Austin Road, which is M-25.
When Ben Willenberg arrived home before 7 a.m. to wake Erika Willenberg for school, he found the family dog ill and Erika still in bed, unconscious and not breathing, authorities said.
Ben Willenberg called 911, and rescuers took Erika Willenberg to Scheurer Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The news stunned the small lakeside town of Caseville, where the high school has just 96 students.
Police haven’t said what caused the suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at the Willenberg home, but Bill Deming said it was a problem with a furnace, “something you couldn’t see from the outside.”
Bill Deming said the Willenberg home had a carbon-monoxide detector upstairs, but that the detector didn’t work for some reason.
“The plumber we talked to said you ought to have about four or five of ’em, and if you’re gonna have ’em, get a good one,” Bill Deming said.
David Quinn said three members of another family – who live several houses away from the Willenbergs – also reported problems with carbon monoxide on Tuesday morning.
Huron County Sheriff Kent D. Tibbits reported that the family members – a 24-year-old mother, a 2-year-old child and a 5-week-old child – left their home early Tuesday morning after the home’s carbon-monoxide alarm went off.
When the mother returned home she found the police investigation in progress at the Willenberg home. Investigators checked the 24-year-old’s home and found an elevated carbon-monoxide level.
Tibbits noted that carbon-monoxide alarms should be used, but furnaces also need to receive regular maintenance by qualified personnel.