US

3 Dead in San Antonio Home; High Levels of Carbon Monoxide

By Web Staff

SAN ANTONIO—San Antonio police say a man and his two children have been found dead in a house where the electricity had been off since May 31 and a generator was located inside.

Police say the homeowner stopped by the house late Monday after not being able to reach the 56-year-old resident or his daughters, ages 9 to 11.

Authorities say a fuel-powered generator was inside the home and turned on but not running. Emergency responders detected high levels of poisonous carbon monoxide, which can be emitted by generators.

Police found no signs of trauma. Causes of death were pending.

Names of the victims weren’t immediately released. Officials didn’t say why the electricity wasn’t working.

San Antonio Fire Department spokesman Woody Woodward says generators should never be placed inside homes.

In another instance of carbon monoxide poisoning, a family of four died from carbon monoxide poisoning due to a gas leak in the water heater.

Police came to the Reitter family home in Genoa Township for a welfare check on May 2. But they found 50-year-old Gabe Reitter III, 49-year-old Jennifer Reitter, and their children Gabe IV and Grace, dead. Their three dogs were also dead.

“The four family members were located in separate rooms, either in bed or in bathrooms,” police said in a statement (pdf). “The three family dogs were also deceased with two of them in crates.”

The last known contact with the family was late April 29, when all four members had complained of illness, police said. The parents had told the schools that their daughter, Grace, would not be attending on April 30 because she was ill.

Neighbor Charlene Baggs told ABC6 that she was close to the family.

“They moved in just a couple of years ago and just became very close friends,” she said.

“They were very nice kids. He had his own business. Their two little kids call me grandma, so you know they are going to be really missed.”

Gabe Reitter owned a construction company, and the business will continue, his brother-in-law, Ralph Marcum, told ABC6. However, he is struggling with the loss.

“It could not happen to someone who was so giving,” Marcum told the new station. “He was a brother.”

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The Montgomery County Coroner listed the cause of death as carbon monoxide saturation, but this could be changed to carbon monoxide intoxication depending on the results of blood tests on the victims.

A forensic engineering company tested the water heater inside the home on May 3 and found that it was emitting high levels of carbon monoxide.

But police emphasize that they cannot confirm if the high levels of carbon monoxide were caused by faulty installation of the water heater or the water heater being defective itself. This could only be confirmed via further testing—a decision in the hands of the executors of the family estate, and or the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

According to the CPSC, carbon monoxide is a poisonous and deadly gas that is colorless and odorless. It is produced when fuels—for example, coal, wool, oil, kerosene, propane, and natural gas—are burnt incompletely.

Very High Levels of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide levels were about 999 to 1200 parts per million (ppm) inside the home, which had to be vented out before first responders could enter safely. They were unable to find any carbon monoxide detectors inside the home.

If carbon monoxide levels stay above 70 ppm, people can become affected and start having symptoms like headache, fatigue, and nausea, according to the CPSC. If levels stay above 150 to 200 ppm, people can become disoriented, unconscious, or die.

Upon entering the home, first responders from the police and fire departments had noticed that the exhaust pipe on top of the water heater was slightly dislodged.

According to records, Gabe Reitter and a friend had installed the tankless water heater on Dec. 18, 2018. The water heater is a “Navien NPE-240A tankless system” and it requires that natural gas be converted to propane.

On Dec. 20, 2018, Navien had recalled about 3,400 of its tankless water heaters, because a “kit installed on the tankless water heaters and boilers to convert them from natural gas to propane can cause the unit to produce excessive amounts of carbon monoxide.”

But the model of the water heater in the Reitter home was not one of the models listed in Navien’s recall.