Baton Rouge, LA- The family of an LSU student who died recently of carbon monoxide poisoning handed out detectors of the deadly gas this week to students who live in apartment buildings near the LSU campus.
Sterling Kyle Oser, 22, died Jan. 17 of carbon monoxide poisoning at his girlfriends apartment on East State Street. Police, who deemed the death an accident, said Oser was found in a small unventilated room with a natural gas space heater.
Days after their sons funeral, Gregg and Laura Oser decided to purchase 25 carbon monoxide detectors and distribute them to other students who live in the area of mostly low-rent apartments. Their younger son, Blake, also handed out some of the devices.
We just felt compelled to do something, said Gregg Oser, who was initially reluctant to speak about his efforts but agreed in hopes it would prevent a similar tragedy.
Its a silent killer, he said. Ive researched and learned and understood how these things happen. I just wanted to make sure that when these kids come home at night when its in the mid-20s and turn on the heat that this kind of tragedy wouldnt happen to them.
Paramedics were called to the apartment at 4:22 p.m. last Saturday to find Oser and a 22-year-old woman in a small, unventilated room with a natural gas space heater, said Sgt. Don Kelly, a police spokesman.
Oser was pronounced dead at the scene, Kelly said. The woman was taken to a hospital and is expected to survive, he said.
Raymond Levie, chief of investigations for the parish Coroners Office, said the level of carbon monoxide in Osers blood was 60.4 percent. A normal level is 2 percent or less.
Gregg Oser said his son, a native and lifelong resident of Mandeville, was a senior majoring in general studies and was expected to graduate soon.
Osers interests were in arts and music, his father said, adding that he had a very discerning taste for lots of older music that I enjoyed listening to with him, and for the newer music today.
He had a tight group of friends who came to his services Monday and showed their support and spoke out about the kind of young man that he was, he said. Hes going to be well missed by all of his friends or family.
Gregg Oser said the neighborhood residents were aware of their sons accident and were grateful for the carbon monoxide detectors. A number of friends and family members have recently purchased their own detectors and installed them in their homes, he said.
Since we may have some additional cold nights, if we could prevent an illness or a death, that would be great, he said.
Carey Chauvin, a city-parish building official, said inspections and detectors are the best way to ensure older gas space heaters are working properly.
The city-parish building code bans most gas space heaters in new buildings and requires others to be accompanied with an oxygen depletion sensor, Chauvin said, but it does not apply to older buildings built before the code took effect.
However, gas space heaters in older homes and buildings built before the code took effect must be upgraded or removed if they are part of a renovation, he said.
Chauvin said gas space heaters should be checked by a licensed professional usually a plumbing or mechanical contractor or an appliance specialist.
We know they can pose a danger if the room is not properly ventilated, he said. If youve got enough ventilation in the room, it shouldnt be a problem.
Anyone who uses one of the old gas space heaters should install a sensor and consider consulting with local building code authorities, Chauvin said.
Were certainly more than willing to let people know if these units comply with code, Chauvin said.