MOUNT SHASTA, Ore. — The deaths of two people found in a Mount Shasta-area home on Saturday have been linked to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office (SCSO) announced on Wednesday.
An initial investigation determined that foul play was not a factor in the two deaths. Autopsies later confirmed the cause of death.
"An autopsy conducted this week led investigators to attribute the deaths to carbon monoxide poisoning. The manner of death has been ruled 'accidental,'" SCSO said in a statement.
The victims have since identified as 50-year-old Cha Bouashu Lao and 43-year-old Lia Her, both linked to addresses in Sacramento.
The investigation began just after 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, when two deputies responded to a report of "two deceased adults" found in a structure near Carnes Road and Manzanita Road in the Mt. Shasta Vista subdivision, an unincorporated area about 35 miles southeast of Yreka.
“We are saddened by the death of the victims involved in this case. Our thoughts, prayers, and condolences go out to both victims, their families, and friends,” Sheriff Jon Lopey said.
SCSO suspects that the source of the fatal carbon monoxide was charcoal left burning in a "barbecue-type device" that the victims were using to keep themselves warm.
"Charcoal emits a high-level of CO, especially in an enclosed structure, which can be extremely dangerous," SCSO said.
The agency issued the following tips about carbon monoxide, which can kill pets or people with little warning:
•Many household items can create deadly CO fumes, including gas and oil-burning furnaces, portable generators, charcoal grills, lanterns, unvented or subserviced wood burning stoves, and similar heating devices.
• Ensure your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances are serviced by a qualified technician once a year.
• It is highly recommended that battery-operated or battery back-up CO detectors be installed in your home and check or replace the battery when you change your clocks each spring and fall.
• If the CO detector sounds, leave your home immediately and call 9-1-1.
• Seek medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning. Symptoms include a dizzy, light-headed, and/or a nauseated feeling.
• Never use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, and garage or near a window of any structure you occupy.
• Don’t run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the garage door open.
• Don’t burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented.
• Don’t heat your house with a gas oven.
• If you use a generator near your home, ensure it is located at least 20 feet away from your home, doors, and windows.
• Carbon monoxide can’t be seen, can’t be smelled, can’t be heard, BUT CAN BE STOPPED by following some of the suggestions mentioned in this news release.
"I want to take this opportunity to remind our citizens that the alarming number of accidental deaths attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning (CO) in recent years is a serious concern," said Sheriff Lopey. "It is important to realize that this time of the year we sometimes see an increase in these types of human tragedies due to freezing temperatures and the unsafe use of heating devices. CO deaths are preventable and are normally caused by the improper or careless use of potentially hazardous heating devices that often emit harmful CO fumes, especially in enclosed areas without proper ventilation. It is equally important to remember that CO is very difficult to detect because it is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas. It is slightly less dense than air and CO can cause disabling and sometimes fatal injuries.”