Beaumont, TX – 2 adults and 3 children succumb to fumes from a generator running inside apartment
Zeke Minaya, Houston Chronicle – After evacuating to Mississippi to escape Hurricane Rita’s wrath, Billy Coleman returned home to find the electricity out at his north Beaumont apartment.
Early Monday more than 48 hours after Rita made landfall and long after it swept northeast the lasting effects of the storm delivered a
tragic blow to Coleman and six others staying with him. A portable generator the family used to run fans inside its stifling, sweaty
apartment produced carbon monoxide, which overcame those inside.
Coleman, 47, was killed, along with three children, ages 12, 10 and 7, and his girlfriend’s sister, 25.
Coleman’s girlfriend, Irene Bean, 29, who is the children’s mother, and another child, Emery Reese, 8, were hospitalized in critical condition. Another youngster, a 12-year-old girl, was treated at a medical facility and released.
Officials at the scene said they found six to seven times the amount of the lethal dosage of carbon monoxide fumes inside the apartment. The victims may have been exposed to the deadly fumes for more than seven hours, Beaumont Fire Department Capt. Mark Clapp said.
The deaths are believed to be the first hurricane-related fatalities in Beaumont, city officials said.
The horrific scene was overwhelming for neighbors already pushed to the limit by Rita’s fury.
The poisonings were discovered when Coleman’s daughter, Quanishia Haynes, drove past the apartment at the Pine Club complex and gave a friendly honk, only to see her 12-year-old sister stumble outside the front door, vomiting.Haynes and her boyfriend ran inside to find her father and others unresponsive.
They frantically dragged the victims outside to the sidewalk, covered by a green carpet of pine needles.
Daniel Tierott, 31, said he and other neighbors helped pull the remaining family members from the apartment and tried to improvise performing CPR.”We just tried our best, man,” Tierott said as he fought back tears. “I just did what I’ve seen on television.”
A seven-hour exposure to carbon monoxide renders the blood incapable of carrying oxygen, making revitalization efforts futile, fire department officials said.”There’s nothing anyone could have done for them,” Clapp said.
Coleman, a construction worker, apparently collapsed while making his way to his apartment door, his daughter said.
C.J. Collins, a resident of the apartment complex, said he had worried for the family’s safety when he heard them start the generator.
“I should have told them. I should have told them,” Collins said, as he broke down in tears.