Final CO results in, N.W.T. family has close call

The final toxicology results for the last of five people who died of carbon monoxide poisoning in their Porter Creek home in January have been handed over to the Yukon's chief coroner.

The final toxicology results for the last of five people who died of carbon monoxide poisoning in their Porter Creek home in January have been handed over to the Yukon’s chief coroner.

They show Bradley Rusk and Donald McNamee both had extremely high levels of carboxyhemoglobin in their bodies when they died. Rusk had 61 per cent and McNamee had 78 per cent.

Forty per cent is considered severe poisoning, while anything greater than 60 per cent may lead to death, coroner Sharon Hanley said earlier this month after releasing the results for Valerie Rusk, whose body showed more than 80 per cent and her children, Gabriel and Rebekah Rusk, whose bodies showed over 90 per cent.

Hanley is still waiting on a few more pieces of information before finishing up her own investigative report, she said.

After reviewing it all, she’ll decide whether to call an inquest into the Jan. 29 deaths.

But she doesn’t know how long that will take her.

Meanwhile, N.W.T. fire marshal Stephen Moss wasted no time issuing a warning after an Inuvik family was taken to hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Earlier this week, Moss issued a “hazard alert” to residents with natural gas-burning, forced-air furnaces.

“We’ve identified that there are some furnace installations that have shown cracking in the heat-exchange portion of the appliance,” said Moss over the phone on Thursday. “We’ve started taking a bunch of corrective measures to deal with it.”

The cracking can allow the release of carbon monoxide into the home. It was found in one unit during a regular maintenance call, said Moss.

The mechanics then took it upon themselves to begin checking for this cracking during all other maintenance calls and, to their surprise, found it was quite common.

“At this point, we’ve had nobody showing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning,” said Moss.

But that didn’t stop him from issuing an alert to all N.W.T. residents to install carbon monoxide detectors and have their furnaces serviced.

Gas and oil-burner mechanics are regulated in the N.W.T., Moss said. Installations of oil and natural gas equipment are regulated by specific codes listed under legislation like the Gas Protection Act.

“This is something that we worry about all the time,” Moss said. But January’s tragedy in Whitehorse “sure brings it to the front of your plate,” he added.

The Inuvik family’s close call has been blamed on a collapsed and clogged chimney.

It is common for many of the appliances in the N.W.T. to be quite old and therefore more susceptible to possible problems, said Moss.

As in the Yukon, carbon monoxide detectors are only mandatory in homes built in 2005 or later.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

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