The Kansas City Star, Associated Press
TOPEKA, Kan. – State health officials have added carbon monoxide to a list of potential hazards such as alcohol, heat and reckless boating that boaters and swimmers need to watch out for this summer.
A week after Melissa Kennedy, 34, of Holton, succumbed to the odorless, colorless gas and drowned at Perry Lake, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment warned Friday that carbon monoxide can build to lethal levels in windless conditions.
“At high concentrations, carbon monoxide can be fatal in two or three breaths,” said Lori Haskett, the department’s injury prevention director.
Jefferson County Sheriff Roy Dunnaway said Kennedy drowned in the lake’s Slough Creek area where several boats were docked and operating gas-powered generators. Without any breeze, carbon monoxide gathered near the water, causing Kennedy to pass out.
Nearby, another woman also passed out and slipped underwater, said Detective Sgt. Jerry Green, but she was pulled out of the water and revived. A third victim, a girl, passed out on board a boat.
“The carbon monoxide was just sitting there,” Haskett said. “Usually, you’re in the wind and (the gas) is able to escape, but it was just kind of hovering.”
Haskett described the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning as similar to motion sickness or being under the influence of alcohol. She said someone feeling those symptoms should get fresh air quickly.
“That’s the only way to get it out of your system is to get out of the location that you’re in,” she said, adding that people should be aware of the exhaust coming from generators on their boats. “We want to educate as many people as we can to keep them safe.”