Niles carbon monoxide death a reminder of CO dangers

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CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Justin Linden’s family makes sure they read the rules before jumping in pool.

They check the depth and keep the kids at no more than arm’s length as they splash away. But some of the danger could be above the water – in the form of carbon monoxide.

It’s probably the last thing most think of when splashing around in a hotel pool. But as Saturday’s incident at a Southwest Michigan motel proves, the danger is real.

A ventilation problem with the heater that keeps the water warm at Niles Quality Inn and Suites caused the deadly carbon monoxide leak that killed 13-year-old Bryan Watts on Saturday morning.

The rest of those exposed, about a dozen more people, were taken to the hospital and were treated and released.

In Niles, the fire department inspects for fire hazards but not for mechanical problems like the yet-to-be-determined problem that caused the pool heater to spew deadly carbon monoxide into the enclosed pool deck.

The state building code requires buildings — including hotels and motels– built after 2009 to install carbon monoxide detectors near fuel-burning devices like furnaces, water heaters and other equipment that could malfunction and emit the gas. But the code isn’t retroactive for buildings built before 2009.

“It concerns me as a firefighter, it concerns me as a citizen,” said Grand Rapids Fire Department Inspector Bill Smith.

He hopes that from the tragedy in Niles will come more public awareness of the colorless, odorless, tasteless gas known as the silent killer.

Smith said there are hotels that have gone beyond what the law requires and have installed carbon monoxide detectors.

“Hotel operators may have already gone ahead and saw why these are worthwhile,” Smith said. “And the safety measures may have been something they went ahead on their own and installed those in their building and properties.”

If you’re not sure if the hotel in which you’re staying has carbon monoxide detectors, fire officials suggest going to the store and buying a battery-powered detector. It won’t cost much and will buy you peace of mind.

Online:National Fire Protection Association: Learn about carbon monoxideCarbon Monoxide safety

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