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Boy, nine, dies from carbon monoxide poisoning while boating on Oklahoma lake

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A nine-year-old boy has died from carbon monoxide poisoning while boating on an Oklahoma lake with his family. 

Andy Free fell off the back of the Malibu Skier at Lake Eufaula on June 6; he was initially thought to have drowned before an autopsy revealed deadly levels of the gas in his system. 

Now his mother Cassi is warning others of the dangers of boats, sharing a Facebook post about his death, writing: ‘Andrew has been swimming since he was 2 years old- he was a STRONG swimmer- and yet, he didn’t even struggle. Now we know why.’  

The CDC warns: ‘Gasoline-powered engines on boats, including onboard generators, produce carbon monoxide (CO), a colorless and odorless gas that can poison or kill someone who breathes too much of it.’

Andy Free fell off the back of the boat at Lake Eufaula on June 6; he was initially thought to have drowned before an autopsy revealed deadly levels of the gas in his system.

Explaining how her son fell ill, Cassi added: ‘He was at the back of our Malibu Skier most of the day. Boats, even moving, create a backdraft of exhaust. ‘I didn’t know this. No one I know knew this. It’s called open-air carbon monoxide poisoning’

Andy had been enjoying a day out with his family on Lake Eufaula, pictured, when he fell ill 

Symptoms include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.

Andy had carbon monoxide levels of 72 percent; his two brothers also fell ill with headaches, nausea and dizziness.  

Explaining how her son fell ill, Cassi added: ‘He was at the back of our Malibu Skier most of the day. Boats, even moving, create a backdraft of exhaust.

‘I didn’t know this. No one I know knew this. It’s called open-air carbon monoxide poisoning. 

‘Another friend looked into and found that it can also happen on other recreational vehicles like 4-wheelers. 

‘Our little Andy, our Dude, was probably slowly dying that afternoon/evening and we didn’t know it. He would’ve been tired. His head would’ve started to hurt. 

‘Sounds like too much sun after a long, physically draining day of wakeboarding, wake surfing, and tubing.’ 

Andy had carbon monoxide levels of 72 percent; his two brothers also fell ill with headaches, nausea and dizziness. Explaining how her son fell ill, Cassi added: ‘He was at the back of our Malibu Skier most of the day. Boats, even moving, create a backdraft of exhaust’

HOW CAN CARBON MONOXIDE BUILD UP IN A BOAT? 

The CDC warns: ‘Larger boats, such as houseboats, sometimes have generators that vent toward the rear of the boat. This venting poses a danger of CO poisoning to people on the rear swim deck or water platform. On larger boats CO builds up above the water near the water platform. CO that builds up in the air space beneath the stern deck or on and near the swim deck can kill someone in seconds.

‘Traveling at slow speeds or idling in the water can cause CO to build up in a boat’s cabin, cockpit, bridge, and aft deck, or in an open area. Wind from the aft section of the boat can increase this buildup of CO.

‘Back drafting can cause CO to build up inside the cabin, cockpit, and bridge when a boat is operated at a high bow angle, is improperly or heavily loaded, or has an opening that draws in exhaust.’ 

Cassi said she could have lost all three of her sons, writing in the viral post: ‘Andy was smaller than his brothers. 

‘They were moving around on the boat more than he was. They were at slightly less risk than their youngest brother.

‘But we could’ve lost all three of our children that night. As hard as it is to swallow, we were fortunate. Fortunate that Andy doesn’t have to spend his life on life support. Fortunate that his brothers lived.

‘It still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.’ 

A 2014 report found there had been more than 140 fatalities from boating-related poisonings since 2000. 

Cassi said her family have owned four registered boats and four registered personal watercraft, adding: ‘We’ve never received a notice of any dangerous conditions.’

She wrote: ‘Backseat riders are especially vulnerable at low speeds and in long no-wake zones like the one we had to cross to return to the docks.

‘Andrew crawled up onto the back edge of the boat while we were packing up at the dock and became unconscious and unaware of his impending death. 

‘We had no idea anything unusual was taking place. 

‘Had he not fallen over, had he made it into the car, even if he wouldn’t have passed at the lake, he would’ve been so severely brain-damaged that he likely would’ve passed away in his sleep on the way home. 

‘Even if he would’ve gone immediately to the ER at that time, he still would’ve died. No medicine could’ve saved him at his levels. There was nothing that could’ve been done at this point.   

‘Don’t let Andy’s death be in vain. Educate yourself and educate your friends and family. I do not want anyone else to ever experience what I am going through.’  

A 2014 report found there had been more than 140 fatalities from boating-related poisonings since 2000. Cassi said her family have owned four registered boats and four registered personal watercraft, adding: ‘We’ve never received a notice of any dangerous conditions’

Cassi is warning others of the dangers of second hand boats, sharing a Facebook post about his death, writing: ‘Andrew has been swimming since he was 2 years old- he was a STRONG swimmer- and yet, he didn’t even struggle. Now we know why’

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