Carbon monoxide blamed in family's deaths

Carbon monoxide poisoning is to blame for three deaths in a home in the Buckingham area of Gatineau, Que., police say.

Autopsies have yet to be performed, but police in Gatineau, Que., say they are fairly certain what caused the deaths of three people found Wednesday in a Buckingham house.

Carbon monoxide "intoxication is probably the main cause for the three people dead," police spokeswoman Isabelle Poirier said Thursday.

The house on Nixon Street where the three were found at 2 p.m. is registered to Jean-Claude Vallée. According to the Ottawa Citizen, neighbours identified the dead as Vallée, his wife, Paulette, and their daughter, whose name was not known.

Police who found the three family members after responding to a 911 call said they discovered a gas generator that was out of fuel and still hot in the garage. According to Hydro-Québec, thousands of homes in the area were hit with a power outage after last weekend's ice storm.

There is no problem with operating a generator during a power outage as long as it's used properly, said Jack Smith, the president of the Canada Safety Council.

"In an emergency situation, people try to make do but frankly, I wouldn't even put a barbecue on inside a garage," Smith told CBC News.

However, generators are not the only source of carbon monoxide, a colourless, odourless gas, Smith said.

Wood stoves, exhaust pipes for furnaces and hot-water tanks can all lead to carbon monoxide poisoning if not regularly maintained, he said.

The final line of defence costs only $30 to $60, Smith said.

"People should put carbon monoxide detectors in their homes," Smith said. "They should have at least two: one in the basement near the furnace, the other where they sleep, so if the alarm goes off they can hear it."