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Frankfort family of five survives carbon monoxide poisoning on Christmas Eve

A Frankfort family poisoned by carbon monoxide is now sharing their story. The deadly substance started leaking into their home on Christmas Eve.

Posted: Jan 5, 2021 7:56 AM
Updated: Jan 5, 2021 8:30 AM

FRANKFORT, Ind. (WLFI) -- A family in Frankfort is happy to be alive after being poisoned by carbon monoxide. The deadly substance started leaking into their home on Christmas Eve.

Carbon Monoxide is orderless, colorless, tasteless, and almost impossible to detect on your own. The Martinez-Campos family is happy to be alive but they say it's unfortunate carbon monoxide detectors were not in their home at the time.

"I start feeling sick around two o'clock and I told my husband I'm feeling sick and he told me what's wrong and I prescribe myself, I say probably because I got up so early, I'm too tired," said Alexandra Campos, mother poisoned with carbon monoxide.

Campos said she started cooking earlier that day and every hour she became weaker. She later learned her stove, water heater and furnace were all leaking carbon monoxide. Her 6-year-old daughter Bella was the first to faint.

"I scream Gabriel, Gabriel, my girl, something is wrong with the baby, something is wrong with the baby," said Campos.

The family called 911 when they saw Bella stopped breathing and started turning blue. Paramedics rushed her to the hospital and Campos and her husband Gabriel Martinez-Campos followed, leaving their other two daughters Kazzandra and Gabi at home.

"Me and my sister were just hanging out in the living room and then a couple of minutes later she was sleeping on the couch, at least I thought, but supposedly what they told me that she was actually passing out," said Kazzandra Escareno, Alexandra's oldest daughter.

Kazzandra called her mother to tell her, her middle sister fainted and that she was also starting to feel sick and dizzy. Campos relayed that to the doctor working with Bella and he called for another team of paramedics to go back to their home. Frankfort firefighters were also called to investigate and that's when they discovered carbon monoxide was the cause. They said levels were up to 400 parts per million which can kill a person within hours according to Frankfort Fire Chief John Kirby.

"If those alarms were working the way it was supposed to be working, this couldn't be happening," said Campos.

Campos claims she had two-in-one smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in her home prior to the incident. She said some time ago she allowed Frankfort firefighters to replace the alarms after they told her the ones they provide are the same. Campos said this carbon monoxide incident is when she learned the detectors in their home were only smoke alarms.

"I thought that they had the same ones, that's what we thought, they have the same ones that we bought but no, they just gave me a smoke alarm," said Campos. "They took them because they have to prove that they did come to my house and switch those alarms."

Chief Kirby said he's investigating these claims. He said the fire department has never given out two-in-one smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. He also said they are not required to take the uninstalled alarms as proof of visiting a home, instead, they require homeowners to sign off on a document saying they're giving firefighters permission to install new alarms. Then the fire department puts those documents into a book of records.

"Our people were trained on how we're going to enter the homes and the talks we were going to have with them and that's definitely not something our firefighters was supposed to say but that's under investigation at this time," said Frankfort Fire Chief John Kirby.

The Frankfort Fire Department started hosting a smoke detector blitz in partnership with the American Red Cross in 2015. The program continued until 2019 and was postponed in 2020 due to Covid-19 safety measures. It allows firefighters to go door-to-door to replace smoke alarms and provide fire safety and awareness tips to residents for free. Campos was not able to pinpoint when the firefighters first came to their home, but Chief Kirby believes firefighters may have stopped by at some point during this blitz. 

Chief Kirby said this was a dangerous accident and is grateful the family made it out alive. He hopes residents can learn from this so it doesn't happen to any more families.

"You definitely need to have a carbon monoxide detector present," said Kirby. "This time of year is when you want to get your furnace inspected and you want to make sure that you're fireplaces are cleaned out." 

He suggests homeowners purchase carbon monoxide detectors that plug into the wall rather than two-in-one smoke and carbon monoxide detectors because CO rises from the ground up and a plug-in detector being closer to the ground could alarm people sooner than a detector higher up on the wall or ceiling.

"We're more than happy to come to your home to make you have peace of mind and be at ease when you go to bed if you ever want us to come in a checkout your furnace, any type of gas line, your stove and things of that nature," said Kirby.

"Get those alarms," said Campos. "You're never going to find out that your whole family is getting poisoned unless you have a carbon monoxide alarm." 

The family is now back in the home and those appliances leaking carbon monoxide are turned off. A family friend donated a water heater but the family is still in need of a furnace and stove top oven. If you'd like to support the family you can do so by donating here.

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