Decatur, AL- By Seth Burkett,Decatur Daily
Authorities said Friday they discovered the cause of a carbon monoxide emission that killed one man and injured several others aboard a cabin cruiser docked at the Decatur Boat Harbor a week ago today.
Decatur Fire and Rescue and Alabama State Marine Police spent the week investigating the poisoning of Billy Wayne Thomas, 47, of Somerville.
“It was obvious that the main exhaust hose of the port engine was completely deteriorated, and it blew a hole. All the exhaust was blown into the aft cabin,” said Kiko Villalon, president of Ancon Marine Consultants.
Villalon, a carbon monoxide expert, provided his services free to help investigators pinpoint the cause of Thomas’ death.
The level of carbon monoxide issued into the Lady Lynn’s cabin by the ruptured hose could kill a man in three breaths, Villalon said.
“The breach of the hose, he (Thomas) fell within minutes of that,” he said.
Marine police officer Larry Adams said investigators checked the level of carbon monoxide inside the boat. Running the test near the doorway for five minutes, it was three times the lethal amount,” he said.
Thomas ran the engine only about 30 minutes to an hour before he experienced mechanical problems and returned to the boat harbor Aug. 19, Adams said.
Thomas apparently ventured into the lower area of the boat about the time the hose ruptured. The hose was behind the bathroom wall, and the damage would not have been visible, Adams said.
“(Carbon monoxide) is practically the same density as air, so you don’t know it until it overpowers you,” Villalon said.
However, a carbon monoxide detector aboard the Lady Lynn could have saved Thomas’s life, Villalon said.
“They did have one carbon monoxide detector, and we found it off. They had taken the battery out,” he said.
Fire Marshall Darwin Clark said several civilians assisted Thomas and his wife, Terri, after Thomas collapsed. As a result, most of the rescuers suffered poisoning as well and were lying on the deck of the boat in various states of illness when firefighters arrived.
Blood found at the foot of the stairs in the lower cabin showed where Thomas fell and struck his head before his friends mounted an attempt to rescue him and dragged him back to the top of the vessel, Clark said.