Dangerous Gases On The Lake
Every year, carbon monoxide poisoning from boat generators and exhaust pipes kill or injure people on the water. The lake averages about two carbon monoxide poisonings each month and many victims end up in the Lake Regional Emergency Room.
People often inhale carbon monoxide while swimming behind a boat while the motor is running. But staying inside a houseboat or cabin cruiser is also risky.
"People will like go down into the cabin to take a nap, and they're not running their blowers and stuff, so people can actually become overcome while they're actually asleep," said Dr. John Loney of the Lake Regional Emergency Room.
In 1999 Captain Walz of the Missouri State Water Patrol witnessed such a tragedy when four people didn't show up for work after a weekend on their cabin cruiser boat.
"And I actually responded to that location, and saw down into the cabin cruiser that there were people lying down there that were not conscious or breathing," he said.
All four people were dead when officers arrived. In this case, some of those on the boat had been drinking. Alcohol has been a common denominator in several carbon monoxide poisonings since symptoms like nausea or vomiting are often associated with drinking alcohol.
"If they are intoxicated, they may just think that the alcohol causes those effects when in reality it may be the alcohol with the combination of carbon monoxide together," Walz said.
Walz said the 1999 accident and many other carbon monoxide injuries could have been prevented with carbon monoxide detectors or pre-season inspections that might uncover exhaust problems. The water patrol also said there are precautions to take while on the lake to minimize exposure to carbon monoxide. Don't swim near exhaust pipes or holes, keep the boat engine turned off while swimming, and make sure fresh air can enter the inside of boats while generators and engines are running.