Rutland Town, VT- By Alan J. Keays,Herald Staff
Vermont State Police ruled Wednesday that the death of a 93-year-old man in his Rutland Town home last week was caused by carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of a fuel furnace not working properly.
Elmer Lundell was found dead in his home on Town Line Road where he lived alone on Nov. 17 after police were called there to check on him.
The lieutenant said when troopers first arrived at the Lundell’s home they smelled something in the home and the Rutland Town Fire Department was dispatched to the scene.
Troopers found Lundell, the occupant of the home, dead inside the residence.
An autopsy later performed by the state Chief’s Medical Examiner’s Office determined that Lundell died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Covell said firefighters determined there was an “extremely high” level of carbon monoxide in the home.
“There was no indication that the furnace had been checked recently,” Covell said. “The investigation found that the furnace had not been working properly for quite some time.”
The Vermont Department of Labor assisted State Police in determining the furnace was faulty, Covell said Wednesday.
The state labor department recommends homeowners have a qualified technician service their heating systems at least annually.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas produced by burning fossil fuels. Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to those of the flu, and include headaches, dizziness, nausea, disorientation and fatigue.
Covell said he believed that Rutland County had not seen any fatal carbon monoxide poisonings since April 2000. That’s when two skiers from Connecticut died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a rental house in Pittsfield, also believed to be the result of a faulty furnace.
According to the state Department of Labor, malfunctioning heating systems are the most common source of unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning in Vermont.
During 2001-04 there were more than 800 carbon monoxide incidents reported in Vermont, including six unintentional deaths.
Across the country, unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning sends an estimated 10,000 people to hospital emergency rooms for treatment each year, and kills more than 200.
In January, carbon monoxide poisoning at off-campus housing for University of Vermont students in Burlington killed one man and sickened nine.
That incident helped prompt new requirements for carbon monoxide detectors in all new buildings where people sleep. Those requirements were signed into law in May by Gov. James Douglas.
Killington fire officials last month credited the new the carbon monoxide detector law with saving the lives of five people staying in a condominium.
Killington Fire and Rescue responded to a call from the Sunrise Mountain Village after receiving a report that a carbon monoxide detector was sounding.
Inside the condominium, fire officials said they detected extremely high levels of the carbon monoxide that could have been fatal within hours of exposure. It was later determined that debris was blocking fumes from going out a chimney.