Firefighters in Prince George's County are going door to door this morning in an Oxon Hill neighborhood checking for carbon monoxide detectors. It comes a day after five people were found dead inside a home in the area; investigators believe they were killed by levels of carbon monoxide more than 100 times the normal rate.
The deaths of a married couple, the married woman's sister, and two other men shook the community around Shelby Drive in Oxon Hill, just a short distance from the Indian Head Highway exit off the Capital Beltway.
Pastor Tomas Aguilar presides at a church that some of the deceased attended; the couple's son is a deacon at the church.
"It's a great sorrow to see the loss of any life that brings good to this earth," Aguilar said in Spanish as people gathered near the home Tuesday. "They were lovely people that never harmed anyone. Now, we have to come together to support those who are grieving."
One of the women who died had just returned Monday night from a hospital after undergoing back surgery, according to her daughter. The heat was likely on high that night because of colder temperatures outside, says Prince George's County fire chief Marc Bashoor. Investigators found the pipes from the heating system had rusted and separated.
"There is no indication of anything other than a tragic loss here, a tragic accident," Bashoor said during a press conference Tuesday.
The firefighters' message is simple this morning as they canvass the area.
"Have a carbon monoxide detector in your home ... just like smoke alarms. We preach it everyday, I'm preaching it now. Have a carbon monoxide detector," Bashoor said. "It's slightly lighter than air, so you should put it up near the ceiling. You should put it near your sleeping area."
Over the past two months, Prince George's County emergency responders received four calls from the Shelby Drive neighborhood regarding suspected carbon monoxide leaks in that area, the chief said.
"That's not unusual for any neighborhood of this age," said Bashoor. "A lot of these homes were built post-World War II. There's a lot of older heating systems."
Firefighters canvassed the area raising awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning after those calls, just like they will do again this morning.