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Possible Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Claims 5 In Oxon Hill

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Prince George's County fire chief Marc Bashoor speaking to reporters outside the home where 5 were found dead.
Matt Bush
Prince George's County fire chief Marc Bashoor speaking to reporters outside the home where 5 were found dead.

Five people are dead in Prince George's County of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning, likely from separated pipes on an old heating system.

County fire spokesman Mark Brady says the five people were found dead Tuesday inside a home on the 700 block of Shelby Drive in Oxon Hill, Md.

Two of the people were found by a family member who showed up at the house to check on the occupants' welfare. Officers responded to the scene and pulled three more unconscious people as well as a family pet from the house. Fire and EMS crews pronounced them dead on the scene. Among the victims were two men in their 30s, one man in his mid-40s, and two women in their 60s. The home was owned by Sonia Chavez, who was counted among the deceased.

At a press conference, County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor said firefighters detected extraordinarily high levels of carbon monoxide in the home. A normal carbon monoxide reading is 0 to 5 parts per million; the reading taken at the one-story Oxon Hill home was 550 parts per million. A concentration of just 30 parts per million over time is enough to be deadly.

"We did find separated pipes from the heating system. That would be completely consistent with carbon monoxide release into the home," said Bashoor.

Neighbors reported seeing people outside the home as recently as 5 p.m. Monday night, but that had not been seen since. Bashoor said it's likely the family turned the heating system on high last night after temperatures dipped into the 30s overnight.

Family members and friends had already gathered outside the home about an hour after the bodies were discovered. They confirmed that some if not all of the deceased were from El Salvador.

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often subtle, and are similar to the flu. It's odorless, colorless gas, so leaks are not always obvious.

Bashoor urged residents to own and maintain carbon monoxide detectors to prevent similar tragedies: "The lesson to be learned, in this case, is that if you have a heating system with a very old piping system... CO detectors would have picked up that probably very early and alerted people to come out of the home."

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