This story was updated at 2:55 p.m. on April 24, 2012.
A rusted furnace exhaust pipe releasing high levels of carbon monoxide appears to have claimed five lives inside an Oxon Hill home Tuesday morning, officials said.
Two men in their 30s, two women in their 60s and one man in his mid-40s were found dead inside a single-family home in the 700 block of Shelby Drive around 10:45 a.m. after a family member came to the home to check on them and found two of the five lying on the ground inside, said Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor during a Tuesday news conference outside the home.
The man called 911, and the county’s fire/EMS department responded to the scene where they also located the other three occupants who were already deceased.
During the search, emergency responders used carbon monoxide detectors and found 140 parts per million of CO at the front door and 560 ppm of CO farther inside the home, said Bashoor, noting that just 30 ppm of CO is dangerous.
“There is no indication of anything other than a tragic loss,” he said.
Bashoor said the investigation into the incident revealed that piping to the furnace was rusted and separated from the furnace, causing CO to quickly leak into the home. In addition, he said, investigators could not locate a CO detector throughout the home that he said could have aided in the discovery of the leak.
He said temperatures in the area were between 32 and 40 degrees and said it appears as though the occupants had turned on their heat, which would have caused the large CO leak, given the rusted pipe.
“Carbon monoxide is completely odorless and colorless and something that will quickly begin to make you disoriented,” Bashoor said. “Carbon monoxide will kill overtime; it’s not normally an instant killer. As it’s ingested, it builds up and you succumb to it.”
Bashoor said neighbors in the residential community bordering Indian Head Highway near the Capital Beltway told officials they saw the home’s residents outside Monday evening, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
The victims’ identities have not yet been released and Bashoor said their exact relationship to each other is currently unknown.
Fire officials Tuesday canvassed the immediate neighborhood to distribute safety information to protect residents from CO poisoning.
Bashoor said the county fire department will canvass neighborhoods throughout the county Wednesday morning to distribute safety information, offer inspections for working alarms and give out free CO detectors, which he said should be placed in bedrooms where residents can hear alarms when sleeping.
Prince George’s County police are conducting a death investigation and will determine an exact cause of death when the autopsies are complete.
During Tuesday’s news conference, County Councilman Obie Patterson (D-Dist. 8) of Fort Washington remarked on the loss of the Oxon Hill residents and urged other residents to install working CO detectors.
“I’m very sad of this tragedy, this loss,” he said. “We will be vigilant in this community.”
In addition to the five adults, one pet died inside the home, and another pet was retrieved and survived, Bashoor said.