BY VANESSA ROBINSON
Three years ago I lived every parent’s nightmare when I lost my two sons to carbon monoxide poisoning. I want to share some information that will hopefully prevent your family from suffering a similar tragedy.
My sons Chase and Tyler were aged eight and six years at the time of their deaths in May 2010. They were normal, healthy boys living with me in our rented Shepparton home.
It had never occurred to me that a silent killer could be lurking in our home. But it was – in the form of a gas wall heater that hadn’t been properly serviced by the landlord.
It was a typical Saturday in May when I put Chase and Tyler to bed. The autumn nights were cold and I left the gas heater running. In the middle of the night the boys became unsettled so they came into my room and went back to sleep with me. They never woke up.
Unbeknownst to me, our gas wall heater was leaking carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a silent killer – you can’t see it, smell it or taste it. The heater was faulty and it hadn’t been serviced for years – it was filling our home with poisonous gas that would kill my children and leave me – after recovering consciousness – with long-term, debilitating health problems.
After the boys were found, inspectors visited our home and found the carbon monoxide reading inside the house was a staggering 500 times higher than the safe level. They confirmed that the cause was our faulty gas wall heater.
As a result of my exposure to CO I have ongoing health problems including heart damage, reduced memory and limited use of one of my arms.
But I survived – my children did not. I will live with this pain every day of my life and I am determined to do something positive to ensure this doesn’t happen to others.
This month I’m launching The Chase and Tyler Foundation. It will work to raise awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning and give people practical information to help them reduce their risk. It will also work with governments to help make changes to improve gas appliance safety, particularly for those living in rental accommodation.
My message is simple: have your gas heating appliances serviced by a registered gasfitter a minimum of every two years. This applies to every type of gas fuel burning heater, including central heating units, space heaters, wall furnaces and water heaters. This is the only reliable way of reducing your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by gas heaters.
Only some gasfitters are qualified to take carbon monoxide readings. When booking a gasfitter, you need to ask if they are registered and if they have a carbon monoxide analyser. This is special equipment that will take a reading and detect any CO emissions from your gas heater. I urge you to visit www.chaseandtyler.org.au to find out how to keep your family safe. You can also find information on the Energy Safe Victoria website.
The cost of servicing your appliance is nothing compared with the life-long pain of losing loved ones. Please make sure your home isn’t harbouring a silent killer – have your gas heating appliances serviced regularly.
Vanessa Robinson, a young Mum lost her two children, Chase and Tyler, to carbon monoxide poisoning brought on by a faulty gas wall heater in their rental property. Determined to stop further deaths and suffering from something so preventable, Vanessa has founded The Chase and Tyler Foundation, which aims to educate the nation about the warning signs of carbon monoxide and how to be gas safe.