Power outage contributed to deadly carbon monoxide poisoning, investigators say

MANSFIELD, Ohio --  When authorities discovered the bodies of 34-year-old Megan Keller, a highly-respected administrative supervisor with the Wooster Police Department; her 29-year-old husband, Cody Keller; and their dog inside their home in Washington Township outside Mansfield, the investigation immediately focused on carbon monoxide emissions from a coal burner in the basement.

Then as firefighters began removing hot coals from the burner, the chief investigator for the Richland County Coroner's Office was standing outside the home and noticed something unusual.

Bob Ball told Fox 8 News, “I looked up at the chimney and I saw there was no smoke coming out of there, and I mean these coals were hot, so it kind of led me to believe that maybe the chimney was plugged at first and maybe that was part of it."

But then Chief Investigator Ball discovered there had been a power outage in the  neighborhood on Wednesday morning, and that without power, the fan that would have ventilated the carbon monoxide emissions from the coal burner, would not have been working.

"That heater was still going, the heat inside there, but no fan, so nothing was circulating to get that out of there so it just built up and that's how we kind of figured this out,” said Ball.

Investigators say carbon monoxide levels of 500 parts per million can be fatal, and testing revealed that the levels inside the home were eight times that amount, 4000 parts per million.

According to Bob Ball, "From the carbon monoxide cases I've worked in my years, they basically go to sleep; they don't really realize, you know, especially the more that the carbon is in their system; they just went to sleep."

Ball says the tragic incident is a powerful reminder that all homes should have CO detectors.

He says homeowners should also consider having an emergency generator that would provide power in case out of an outage, and should never take the proper operation of a furnace or coal burner for granted. "My advice to people is to make sure you properly install it, have it installed by a professional, have it checked yearly," he said.