MERIDIAN -- Four water heaters were replaced last week at a Meridian apartment complex where a Marine died in his sleep in November. The Ada County coroner said 18-year-old McQuen Forbush succumbed to acute carbon monoxide poisoning.
Western Heating & Air Conditioning was hired to install the new water heaters at the Sagecrest Apartments. President Bob Barnes says it was likely a ventilation problem that led to Forbush's death.
Barnes says the toxic gases are supposed to vent up and out of the building, but in this case the deadly air was brought right back inside.
"If the house is in a vacuum, it will pull it back down because it needs air, and it just pulls it back in bringing all those gases with it, and putting them right down on the floor," said Barnes.
Barnes says this is a fairly common issue.
"It is a little bit of the design of the structure, but I'm not going to say it's a flaw because it's very common in today's construction. It's just one of those situations where everything equaled up to a bad situation," said Barnes.
He says the water heater could have been working normally. It's hard to tell whether the vent was blocked, or whether there was some other malfunction.
But whatever the cause, Barnes says there are steps you can take to make sure this doesn't happen in your home.
"Have your system inspected, have your appliances inspected annually, and if you are worried, bring it to the attention of the technician who comes out," suggests Barnes.
Barnes says the best defense against a carbon monoxide leak is a CO detector.
At Sagecrest, some residents now have an upscale water heater that protects against possible leaks. "This particular building owner went to the highest extreme of safety. They took the standard water heater out and had us install sealed combustion water heaters," said Barnes.
Barnes recommends keeping a window cracked when you are running your gas appliances. He says you should plug in a CO detector close to the floor since carbon monoxide is a heavier gas.
Meridian firefighters we talked to, however, say the detectors should be plugged in higher on the wall, or even in the ceiling.
For exact placement information, you should check your product manual when installing a CO detector.