British Columbia

Derek Kehler, Helena Curic die of suspected CO poisoning

Derek Kehler, a former Vancouver musician, and his partner, Helena Curic, have died of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning in a cabin northwest of Sydney, Australia.

Kehler, known as Vancouver musician Steel Audrey, moved to Australia last year with his partner, Curic

Derek Kehler and his partner, Helena Curic, pictured here on a 2013 camping trip on Vancouver Island, were found dead in a cabin outside of Sydney, Australia. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Canadian musician Derek Kehler, who performed as Steel Audrey, was found dead along with his Australian girlfriend, Helena Curic, in a cabin outside Sydney, Australia, on Monday.

The Kurrajong cabins where Derek Kehler and Helena Curic died of possible carbon monoxide poisoning appear to have been converted shipping containers. (Channel 10)

Local police are investigating the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning from a makeshift fire used to heat the cabin on Browns Road in Kurrajong. Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas produced when wood, coal and other fuels burn. It can build to dangerous levels when burning fuels are brought inside, to poorly ventilated areas.

The cabin appears to have been a converted shipping container, and Australian media are reporting the deadly gas may have come from a pot of hot coals the couple brought inside.

"It appears they had some sort of makeshift heater inside the cabin and there wasn't any ventilation, and as a result of that they may have asphyxiated," New South Wales police Detective Inspector Suzanne Rode-Sanders said at a news conference.

"At this stage it appears to be just a horrible accident."

The cause of death will be confirmed by the coroner after a post-mortem. 

The Sydney Daily Telegraph called Kehler, 32, and Curic, 31, "creative souls with a full life ahead of them."

Friends of the couple described Curic as funny and brilliant. (Australian media)

A family member discovered their bodies at about 7:40 a.m. local time Monday, according to a statement by the New South Wales police force.

"As you can appreciate, it was a horrific incident especially for one of the relatives to walk into, so our thoughts go out to the family," says Rode-Sanders. 

"They're quite devastated ... very emotional and very upset."

'There's so much of him in his own songs'

Friends of Kehler, who lived in Vancouver before moving to Australia last year, confirmed their identities to CBC News.

Kehler grew up as a "farm kid" in a small town in southern Manitoba, according to his former Vancouver roommate Zach Gray.

"He was such an easy guy to have around, because he's such a seize-the-day kind of person," said Gray.

"He had a really loud laugh and he used it all the time, at himself more than anyone. He also had a kind of depth and loyalty to him."

Gray described Curic as funny and brilliant. "She just charmed us all immediately," he said. 

Family friends are offering condolences on the Facebook page of Derek Kehler's mother, Sharon, remembering his smiles. (Sharon Kehler/Facebook)

"When they first moved to Sydney, they said it was just for a few months, but we all kind of knew that that was just a pretense, and what was really happening was that they had found each other and they were riding off into the sunset together," he said.

Gray said he has been dealing with his shock over the couple's death by listening to Kehler's country music. 

"Old-style, Johnny Cash-style country music about love and death and loneliness and heartbreak," he said. "It's music you can sort of lean against when things are hard, and that's why we've been listening to his music so much in the last couple of days.

"It's kind of equally comforting and heartbreaking that there's so much of him in his own songs."

MAP: Cabin on Browns Rd. in Kurrajong, Australia

With files from Farrah Merali and Rafferty Baker


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?