Juvenal Garcia Mora was trying to warm up the car before dropping the kids off at school and starting the day.
As WLKY News reports, the 39-year-old dad from Louisville, Kentucky, was at home with his two children on Wednesday morning trying to get ready to leave.
The children’s mother had already left for work. So Mora put his 3-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter in the car and started it. However, the garage door was still closed. Louisville police officer Lt. Emily McKinley told WAVE:
“It appeared to be that he had warmed the car up while it was in the garage, and trying to get the kids out the door to school and start the day.”
While the car was running, the garage filled with carbon monoxide. Mora and the two children were exposed to the dangerous gas.
When Mora didn’t show up for work and his daughter was missing from school, concerned family members contacted authorities. Police arrived at the Mora home at 9 a.m., but the level of carbon monoxide was so high that they had to wait before it was safe to enter.
Inside, they found Mora just outside the car and the children in their seats. Father and son had died in the garage. The 7-year-old daughter was rushed to the hospital, where she remains in critical condition.
The tragedy deeply affected the family’s neighbors, who said it was “heartbreaking.” One neighbor told WAVE:
“This is not my neighbor; this is my friend. [The boy] would walk behind his daddy, behind that lawn mower. He was timid but, he wanted to play. Such a precious family. This is awful.”
Authorities are calling it a tragic accident. McKinley told WLKY it’s a reminder that warming your car up in an enclosed space can have deadly consequences:
“I know it’s the winter months and everybody wants a warm car to get into, but be cautious of the areas and make sure it’s a well-ventilated area because horrible accidents happen like this, and they happen very quickly.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is present anytime fuel is burned — such as when you run a car engine, heater, lantern, fireplace, gas range, generator, furnace, etc. Carbon monoxide can fatally poison both people and animals.
More than 400 Americans die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning, and 20,000 visit the emergency room every year for it. Symptoms are often described as “flu-like” and include headache, confusion, dizziness, nausea, weakness, and chest pain. If you are sleeping or intoxicated, it’s possible to die of carbon monoxide poisoning before noticing any symptoms.
To prevent carbon dioxide poisoning in the home, invest in a carbon dioxide detector, be sure gas appliances are in good condition and properly vented, and do not use things like outdoor stoves inside.
While chilly weather may prompt you to warm up your car, the CDC warns that you should never run your car or truck in a garage that is attached to the house — even when the garage door is open. In a detached garage, keep the door open if the car’s engine is running.
In addition, it’s a good idea to have a mechanic check your vehicle for leaks in the exhaust system. Finally, if your car has a tailgate, open the windows and vents when the tailgate is open so that air can move through the car. Otherwise, the exhaust will be pulled into the passenger area by the open tailgate.
It only takes a few minutes for carbon monoxide poisoning to turn deadly. That’s why prevention and awareness are crucial. As McKinley told WLKY:
“This could happen very, very quickly, and it did, in this case.”