Family of four found dead of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning: gas water heater on enclosed balcony

A couple and their two young children were found dead in their apartment in Zhongli District, Taoyuan City this afternoon in what is suspected to be a case of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

The deceased were a 34-year-old man named Zhang (張), his 30-year-old wife, and two boys aged 7 and 8 years old.

A colleague of Mr Zhang went to the family’s apartment on Chengzhan 1st Street after Zhang didn’t show up for work for the last two days.

According to Mr Zhang’s colleague, Zhang requested leave Wednesday, January 20, to look after his eldest son, who was feeling unwell. Yesterday, Thursday, Zhang did not show up for work and could not be contacted by phone.

After not showing up or answering the phone today, Friday, January 22, the colleague went to the family’s apartment at around 4:00 pm, and knocked, and called out loudly. With no response, and sensing a peculiar smell, the colleague alerted the community guard and the landlord to open the door.

When paramedics entered the apartment they found the lifeless bodies of the family of four on the bed in the master bedroom. Rigor mortis had already set in, and a preliminary investigation suggests that the family had fallen unconscious and died on the afternoon of January 20.

There was a strong smell of gas in the apartment, and the gas water heater was located on an enclosed balcony. The windows on the balcony were only slightly open, and a large amount of clothing hanging on the balcony is believed to have contributed to a lack of ventilation.

This tragedy occurred despite continuous education and publicity campaigns in schools and the general community about the dangers of gas water heaters, and other sources of flame in enclosed, unventilated spaces.

On January 15, it was reported that 12 patients had been treated for carbon monoxide poisoning in Miaoli County in the first 15 days of 2021. On the same day, a family of five and their live-in foreign caregiver were hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning in Taichung City.

Taichung City also saw nine people hospitalized in four cases of carbon monoxide poisoning in just two days – January 10, and 11.

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