St. George, UT – Investigators are looking into the possibility that a family cruising on a houseboat on Lake Powell did not heed the warning of a carbon monoxide alarm for three days before succumbing to the toxic gas that left one man dead and sent seven others to the hospital.
Kane County Sheriff Lamont Smith on Wednesday night said his deputies learned from investigators with the National Park Service that the “chirping” sound made by the detectors – similar to those of smoke alarms – had been working three days prior to the fatal event that occurred Tuesday about 3 a.m.
He did not know why the alarms were not taken seriously by those on the boat that included Glenn Howeth, 62, of Winslow, Ariz., who had an apparent heart attack after waking seven family members who appeared to be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning and directing them off the houseboat.
Authorities were alerted by radio that there was a problem with the boat and rescuers were dispatched to the scene at Rock Creek Bay, 40 miles upstream of Glen Canyon Dam.
Those affected by the fumes on the boat trip were taken to hospitals in Page, Ariz., with six later being transferred to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George, where they underwent oxygen enhancing treatments.
All had been released from the St. George hospital by Wednesday night, although their names, ages and hometowns had not been released.
Smith said Howeth’s body was taken to Salt Lake City for an autopsy and it is believed that high levels of carbon monoxide contributed to the death of the man who had suffered from cardiovascular problems in the past. He is being praised by family members and officials as a hero for his quick actions.
But questions remains that if the alarms had been going off, for several days, why were corrective actions not taken sooner?
“It’s a sad affair when no one would pick up the radio and ask why alarms are going off,” said Smith.
The claim that alarms were working is disputed by Travis Howeth, the son of the victim, who said in an e-mail to The Tribune that the detectors were not working and that accounts of the incident by investigators sent to news media were inaccurate.
“Our family is so very proud of what my dad did . . . and the sacrifice he made to save his family,” Travis Howeth said.
Brent McGinn, chief ranger for the Glen National Recreation Area, which includes the 180-mile-long lake, stands by reports of the accident, noting that Travis Howeth was not on the house boat trip.
When asked about the veracity of investigators saying the alarms appeared to be going off for days prior to the incident, he said: “It wouldn’t be a surprise.”
McGinn said that the source of the carbon monoxide could have been an electrical generator to power systems including the air-conditioning on the 75-foot boat rented from Aramark Resorts at Wahweap Marina.
He said that the Coast Guard has been called in to conduct an investigation that will include looking at the carbon monoxide alarms that contain information on whether they were functioning properly at the time.
Marianne Karraker, acting spokeswoman for the Park Service, said the boat has been towed to the Wahweap Resort.