HOUSTON — Two generations of loss for Sheletta Brundidge’s family can be wrapped up in a single picture. It shows five caskets lined up in front of a church. All five of her family members were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning last year.
“This isn’t something that you think is going to happen to you,” Brundidge said. “This is something that happens to somebody else.”
In 2020, when Hurricane Laura blew through Lake Charles, Louisiana, five members of Sheletta Brundidge’s family chose to ride out the storm. Her aunt had Alzheimer’s, so the family stayed back to care for her.
“And so they hunkered down. They got water and food. They had a generator," she said.
Her family survived the hurricane, checking in with family the next day. But that night they powered up a generator in the garage, left the garage door open and went to bed. While they slept, the wind closed the garage door, pushing carbon monoxide into their home.
“That morning my mother called me and told me the news, that five of our family members were dead," Brundidge said.
Carbon monoxide is called the silent killer because it’s a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas. Most people don’t know it’s there.
Generators are only for outdoor use. They need to be at least 20 feet away from any kind of vent, window or door. Fireplaces, gas stoves and ovens can also be sources of CO2. They should only be used for cooking or when someone is keeping a close eye on them.
Symptoms of CO poisoning include dizziness, fatigue and vomiting.
The best defense is a CO detector.
Since her family’s death, Sheletta has teamed up with First Alert to provide free CO detectors to anyone who can’t afford to buy their own. Click here for details.
“We do not want anybody to go through what we’ve gone through,” Brundidge said. “We lost two generations of our family in one night.”
Photo credit courtesy Provid Films.