Kevin R. Jenkins, firstname.lastname@example.org
The accidental death last week of a mother and her adult son, both well-known and loved by many in the Parkland, became a stark reminder of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and how the odorless and colorless gas can quickly and quietly become a lethal presence in the home.
Pete Selzer, 47, and his mother, Joy Selzer Thurston, 73, both of Desloge, were found dead by police officers responding to a call at 7:11 p.m. Aug. 3 at the residence they shared together. Found with them were their pets, who were also overcome by the gas.
Selzer was a 1993 graduate of North County High School who went on to serve in the Army National Guard and later became the coach of North County’s cross-country team. He was employed at Ardagh Glass Company in Pevely. Thurston was a bus monitor for Special Acres State School and a member of Delassus Baptist Church. Services were held for Selzer and Thurston last Sunday at C.Z. Boyer & Son Funeral Home in Desloge.
According to Desloge Police Chief James Bullock, the deaths were the result of carbon monoxide gas released into the home by a generator that didn’t have proper ventilation.
“The generator was in an enclosed area,” Bullock said. “The residents had a breezeway between the garage and the home and the house, but it was an enclosed breezeway. The generator was in that breezeway, which allowed the carbon monoxide fumes to go into the residence.
The police chief added that one of the officers on the scene became disoriented after only a few minutes spent inside the home investigating the deaths that are believed to have occurred sometime between 12 noon and 7:11 p.m.”
With the death of Selzer, the only surviving children of Thurston are her daughters, Carmen Higgins and Tracy Burns.
Asked how she and her sister were coping with the sudden and unexpected deaths of their mother and brother, Burns said, “Needless to say, we’re not coping well, but we are so thankful for this community and all the love and support. I mean, my gosh, they have just surrounded us and lifted us up.
“We’ve had every church in the county praying for us, and the community’s just been amazing. I don’t know how many people came through the visitation, and then the funeral was full. We had a celebration of life at Hub’s Pub, and they furnished everything for us. There was no room in the parking lot, and there was no room to sit at times.”
According to Burns, her mother and brother were well-known by many in the community.
“Everyone that they ever met instantly loved them,” she said. So many people said, ‘You know, Joy was the right name for her because she was joyful, and she always found the best in everybody.
“And Pete was just a true friend. If you became his friend, you were a friend for life, and he would do anything for you. Of course, he was an even better brother, so this has been a really devastating experience for my sister and me and our nieces and my children. But we know that the community is hurting as bad as we are because they love them just as much as we did.”
Burns said her mother had been living in a Bonne Terre apartment until March, when the rent increased, and her brother invited her to come to live with him in the house he bought around five years ago.
“My brother said at that time, ‘Mom, just come move in with me,’” Burns said. “They were together all the time. If you saw one you usually saw the other. They were just a pair.”
Recalling the day her mother and brother died, Burns said, “Naturally, I have a lot of regret over that day because you know I should have, could have — and so do a lot of other people. But in Pete’s defense, he put that generator in his breezeway. He did not bring it inside the house, and I’m sure he just needed to pump his basement out because there’s a natural drain in his yard.
“He was seriously working on it and wanted to try to get that resolved, and so his basement flooded without a sump pump. With no electric because of the storms, he just wanted to get the water out of the basement. I think he thought he’d leave it on for just a little while, and he apparently went to take a shower and then was probably gonna turn it off afterwards. And naturally, it’s just a matter of minutes… it can kill you.”
Yes, carbon monoxide is a killer. The gas can accumulate in closed spaces and prove deadly. This silent killer is responsible for hundreds of deaths each year. Yet, its threat often goes unnoticed until it’s too late.
Tragically, every year more than 500 Americans lose their lives due to exposure to this toxic gas. Carbon monoxide has claimed numerous lives in the state of Missouri over the years. From 2010 to 2015 alone, there were 176 heat-related deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
These incidents underscore the silent yet deadly nature of carbon monoxide. Regular check-ups of home heating systems, installing carbon monoxide detectors, and ensuring proper ventilation for appliances that use gas, oil, or coal can significantly reduce the risk of carbon monoxide exposure.
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often mistaken for those of the flu or food poisoning, including headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Prolonged exposure can lead to loss of consciousness and even death.
Prevention is the key to avoiding carbon monoxide poisoning. Regular check-ups of home heating systems, installing carbon monoxide detectors, and ensuring proper ventilation for appliances that use gas, oil, or coal can significantly reduce the risk of carbon monoxide exposure. Moreover, it’s crucial to never use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent. Remember, if you suspect CO poisoning, get outside to fresh air immediately and call 911.