CO from generator may be cause of 7-year-old's death

- A 7-year-old has died possibly due to carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator being run inside a home in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, the Polk County Sheriff's Office says.

Sheriff Grady Judd says it's the first Irma-related death to be investigated by his agency.

The girl's mother called 911 just before noon Wednesday. Shashunda Wilson, 41, told dispatchers she felt dizzy when she woke up this morning. Her daughter, Terryn had slept in bed with her and appeared to have died in her sleep.

Polk County Fire Rescue arrived to the home first, where they found Shashunda sitting outside. They took her to Lakeland Regional Medical Center. 

PCSO says she told the first responders the generator was running in the living room, while she and Terryn were asleep in the bedroom with the door closed. She had apparently run an extension cord from the generator to her bedroom to power a fan blowing fresh air from the window inside.

In spite of her bedroom door being shut, PCSO says high levels of carbon monoxide were found throughout the home. Once windows were opened and the CO was cleared from the home, deputies were able to go inside and locate Terryn. 

Shashunda and Terryn lived in a duplex. Investigators say the adjoining residence had high CO levels, as well, but no one else was injured. An autopsy will be conducted to determine Terryn's exact cause of death.

"It's a tragedy when anyone dies, but when a child dies, it's a horrific tragedy," Judd said. By all indications, this was a horrific, tragic accident because the basic rules weren't followed."

Polk County Fire Rescue reminds residents:

-Generators and gas grills should be operated in well-ventilated locations, outdoors, away from all doors, windows and vent openings.
-Never use a generator or gas grill in an attached garage, even with the door open.
-Place generators so that exhaust fumes can't enter the home through windows, doors or other openings in the building.
-Install carbon monoxide alarms in your home. Follow manufacturer's instructions for correct placement and mounting height.
-Turn off generators and let them cool down before refueling. Never refuel a generator while it is running.
-Store fuel for the generator in a container that is intended for the purpose and is correctly labeled. Store the containers outside of living areas. Propane tanks should also be turned off when not in use and stored outdoors.
-Do not connect a generator to your home's electrical system without a licensed electrician providing a means to connect. Improper wiring creates the danger of back feeding the power system, energizing downed lines and fatally electrocuting anyone that contacts those lines.

The Department of Health reminds you that you cannot see or smell CO, and portable generators can produce high levels of CO very quickly. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air right away.

If you have a poisoning emergency, call your nearest Florida Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911 immediately.

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