UPDATED 10:20 A.M., FEB. 22, 2021
NACOGDOCHES COUTNY, Texas (KTRE) - The Nacogdoches County Sheriff’s Office has released the names of the three Melrose residents who died of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning.
The victims have been identified as Deborah Wright, 63, and James Harkness Jr., 60, both of Nacogdoches, and Richard Woodard, 42, of Mt. Enterprise.
“(We) would like to extend their deepest condolences to the family members and loved ones that have been affected by this terrible tragedy,” the Nacogdoches County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement released on Facebook.
Authorities said the investigation is ongoing and an autopsy has been ordered by the Nacogdoches County Justice of the Peace Precinct 3, Judge Goerner.
NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) - Three people have died as a result of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning after they ran their electric generator too close to their house, according to Nacogdoches County Sheriff Jason Bridges. The victims are two men and a woman.
Bridges posted a video about the tragedy on the NCSO Facebook page.
“I just came from a horrific, gruesome scene,” Bridges said. “It’s one that will stay with me a long time. It’s just a terrible situation.”
Bridges said the sheriff’s office will put out a press release with more information on Monday. He added that the sheriff’s office is still in the process of notifying the victims’ next of kin. He said the victims included two men and a woman, all adults.
A justice of the peace has ordered that autopsies be performed on the victims.
“I just wanted to use this to educate our citizens,” Bridges said in the video. “I know it’s been a tough week and that there are a lot of people without power or water. Do not run generators inside your home or inside your garage.”
Bridges said the victims in Etoile were using a generator for electricity, and they had put it on their porch. He explained it was too close to the house, and its exhaust got hot enough that it burned a hole into the home’s siding.
The carbon monoxide then leaked into the home and caused the deaths of three people. Bridges did not give any details about their ages or whether they were related to each other.
“We don’t want to see another one of these deaths,” Bridges said. “If you’re running a generator, please be smart about it. Get it away from your house and don’t put it in your garage. Use them at a safe distance from your homes.”
Bridges said carbon monoxide is a silent killer and that it should be taken seriously.
“It will kill you,” Bridges said.
The Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department in the Houston area has responded to 18 incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning in the last week or so. In all, they transported 26 people to Houston-area hospitals.
“Carbon Monoxide (CO) is found in fumes produced any time you burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces,” a post on the Cy-Fair VFD Facebook page stated. “CO can build up indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it. Please keep you and your family safe when staying warm.”
According to another C-Fair VFD Facebook post, the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include dizziness, headaches, disorientation, nausea, and vomiting. If you experience any of these symptoms, call 911.
The Facebook post cautioned people to never use a grill, oven, or stove to heat a home because they produce carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas.
Carbon monoxide poisonings have spiked this week according to reports from the Texas Poison Center Network and the state health department.
The family told East Texas News that the deaths illustrate the desperation many Texans faced during the extreme cold.
“We’re not prepared for the kind of weather that we got this week,” said Traci Benge, who is related to two of the victims. “I’m not sure if you’re freezing cold and you’re just trying to get some heat. It’s a tragedy. It happened. It sucks. It’s awful. I just came here to find some kind of closure.”
Benge is Richard Woodard’s sister and JJ James Harkness’ niece.
Family members said paying for the multiple funerals will be difficult. A funeral account will be set up at Bancorp South in Nacogdoches.
“Please be careful,” Bridges said. “I hope everyone’s power is back on soon.”
The sheriff said if anyone has an elderly friend or relative that needs to be checked on, they can call the Nacogdoches County Sheriff’s Office dispatch at 936-559-2600. He added that the shelters in Nacogdoches are still open and the people who are running them are hoping they will get more supplies today.