Janesville25.8°

Chief: Condo’s CO toxicity levels were ‘off the charts’

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
April 30, 2010
— Investigation continues into the Saturday deaths of two residents in a Milton Township condominium that had carbon monoxide readings 20 times higher than levels considered toxic, authorities said this week.

Pending toxicology results, Rock County Sheriff’s Office still hasn’t determined a cause for the deaths of James P. Folk 68, and Joan R. Leith, 65. Authorities suspect carbon monoxide poisoning after the couple left a minivan running Friday night in the basement garage of their condo at 10645 N. Bay Shore Lane near Edgerton.


Milton Fire Chief Loren Lippincott, whose department responded to the deaths Saturday, said Folk and Leith’s condo smelled strongly of vehicle exhaust and had carbon monoxide readings of at least 500 parts per million.


“That’s off the charts for toxicity,” Lippincott said.


Based on the readings, Lippincott said investigators believe it took “maybe between two to four hours for (the carbon monoxide) to get to the lethal stage” inside Folk and Leith’s condo.


Carbon monoxide concentrations above 25 parts per million can be hazardous to people, Lippincott said.


The couple was found dead in separate rooms on the third floor of their condo just after 2 p.m. Saturday. Several residents in the building’s eight side-by-side units were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning Saturday, authorities said.


It’s unclear how much carbon monoxide had leaked from Folk and Leith’s condo into neighboring units, but none of the eight condos at the complex had carbon monoxide detectors, authorities said.


“In those buildings, there is no current law that requires you to have a (carbon monoxide) monitor,” Lippincott said.


Rock County sheriff’s Capt. Todd Christiansen said investigators still are trying to learn how much fuel was in the couple’s minivan, how long it was left running in the garage and what made it shut off. He said fire crews found the vehicle’s engine stalled with the ignition on and the vehicle’s battery dead.


Authorities aren’t sure what time the couple returned home Friday, but investigators believe they were last seen alive at a tavern at the Lakeview Campground, 1901 E. Highway 59, Milton. They reportedly left the tavern at 6 p.m., Christiansen said.


“They had a couple of beers, and they were out of there. It sounds like that was a routine of theirs on Friday nights,” Christiansen said.


Lippincott said the deaths and residents’ poisonings could have been averted if the couple and other residents at the complex had carbon monoxide detectors.


“You can’t control what your neighbor does, but you can control what happens in your piece of property,” he said.



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