Parents Raise Warning on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Following Daughter's Drowning

Photo: (Photo : XAVIER LEOTY/AFP via Getty Images)

The parents of Ally Sidloski, a promising 21-year-old college athlete, are speaking up and warning others about carbon monoxide poisoning after their daughter tragically drowned in a lake in Ohio last May.

In an interview with Today, David and Tracie Sidloski said they struggled to understand how Ally drowned because she grew up swimming in their pool at home. Aside from her strong swimming skills, Ally was also a young and healthy woman who was a member of the soccer team at the University of Cincinnati.

However, the coroner eventually ruled out that carbon monoxide intoxication was a factor in their daughter's death, prompting the parents to probe further what happened when Ally died. Now, the Sidloski couple is suing the boat maker, Yamaha.

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Preventable Incident

Ally's parents said that while their daughter is gone forever, they can still "try to save other people" from a tragedy. They said that Ally's death was preventable if people were more aware that carbon monoxide poisoning can also occur on boats in open water.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 15 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning occurred in boats in 2020 alone. Unknown to many, when boats are idling in the water or traveling at slow speeds, carbon monoxide builds up in the vessels and exhaust vents. Wind in open water and back drafting may increase the build-up of the gas.

This gas doesn't have any odor or color, so it's not easy to tell if someone has inhaled carbon monoxide. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to alcohol intoxication, where a person feels nauseous or tired, experiences chest pain, dizziness, and weakness, and develop a headache.

In Baltimore, Dr. Justin Johnson of the Mercy Medical Center told Health that carbon monoxide binds tighter in the red blood cells, displacing the oxygen the body needs. When oxygen supply doesn't reach the brain, a person can fall ill and die.

As it happened, Ally and her friends were sitting at the back of the Yamaha boat's swimming deck, where cushioned seats with cup holders were in place. When she dived in the water, her friends said she never got back up.

However, the owner's manual indicated that the spot where Ally sat with her friends was not a "designated seating area." The manual also stated that boat passengers must not stay at the swimming deck when engines run as exhaust gases escape underneath. The lawyer for the family said that there should not have been any seats or cushions on the swimming deck if it's a danger zone.

Risk Awareness

The family's lawyers tested one Yamaha boat in open water with a carbon monoxide meter and learned that an idling engine took a matter of minutes to get a reading of 700 ppm. Concentrations of carbon monoxide are considered dangerous once it reaches 200ppm.

While Yamaha cannot comment on the issue, the CDC said that anyone riding a boat must be aware of the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning. Boat owners should conduct regular inspections and maintenance of their engine and exhaust systems, as well as set up a detector or alarm for carbon monoxide.

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