A father whose daughter passed away from carbon monoxide poisoning has given a heart-breaking warning that if she had been more aware of the dangers of the silent killer and had an alarm, she might have survived.
Katie Haines passed away from CO poisoning aged 31 after the boiler at her home failed. Her parents, Avril and Gordon Samuel, are backing a London Fire Brigade campaign to encourage the use of life-saving alarms to mark Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week this week.
CO is a highly poisonous gas, known as the silent killer as it is difficult to detect because you can’t taste, see or smell it. It occurs when coal, gas, oil and wood appliances are faulty and not serviced regularly or if they are incorrectly fitted or used.
London’s firefighters attend hundreds of carbon monoxide related incidents every year, and they have been called to 250 so far in 2020. Sadly, eight people have died in London from carbon monoxide poisoning since 2017.
Katie sadly lost her life just two months after her wedding and her parents launched the Katie Haines Memorial Trust following her death.
Gordon said: “We had a call from Katie’s mother-in-law to say there had been an accident and that Katie had carbon monoxide poisoning.
“It never occurred to me for one second that Katie had lost her life, it didn’t enter my brain. I thought she had been poisoned and she would be fine.
“When we got to the hospital a doctor came and took us into a side room and broke the news. It was just a complete numbness that came over us, I couldn’t really take it in.”
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Katie was found in the bath by her husband Richard, who had been at work and picking up some dinner on the way home. She had collapsed due to the poisoning and drowned.
Avril said: “We were in shock. It had just been a normal day. We had spoken to Katie earlier that day and she was looking forward to looking at some houses.
“We just didn’t think of carbon monoxide poisoning as something that happened in normal homes, we thought of it as something that happened abroad.”
Gordon said they found out after Katie’s death that the newly married couple had bought a smoke alarm which came with a carbon monoxide alarm, but they hadn’t activated it.
“If she was aware it was a deadly, lethal gas she would have known what to do,” he said.
“We weren’t fully aware of the dangers of CO before Katie died and we want to give her a positive legacy from this tragedy.”
With people spending more time at home than ever due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Trust and the Brigade are working to raise awareness of the silent killer and want to encourage everyone to familiarise themselves with the symptoms and to get an alarm.
The Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Paul Jennings, said: “At London Fire Brigade we have developed a specific response to incidents involving carbon monoxide, so we are well aware of the risks and how devastating it can be for victims and their families.
“Avril and Gordon’s heart-breaking story highlights the very real dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and we would encourage everyone to get an alarm for their home to keep them and their family safe.
“Only around 15% of people have CO alarms, whereas around 85% have a smoke alarm so there is a real need to raise awareness. Poisoning symptoms can easily be confused with just feeling unwell, which is why CO poisoning is so dangerous and so often missed.
“Christmas is just around the corner - if you’re struggling with what to get friends and family, why not get them an alarm that could save their life.
“We’re pleased to form this partnership with the Katie Haines Memorial Trust. We want to educate as many people as we can about the dangers of the silent killer.”
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?