A year after a city was changed forever

By Melanie Yingst

Earlier this week, carbon monoxide poisoning killed a family of six in Linden, Mich. The family had used a propane generator during a power outage, which killed two adults and four children. All of the children were under the age of 11.

A few weeks ago, two adults died and another was hospitalized in Houston as a result of carbon monoxide build up in a home.

Last week, more than a dozen people — again, mostly children — were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning at an East Cleveland home. The victims lived in a crowded home that had previously had its furnace, water heater and stove tagged for repairs.

Today marks the one year anniversary of last year’s devastating carbon monoxide poisoning incident that claimed the lives of three young girls.

I’ll never forget that chilly Friday afternoon, which will be remembered as one of the most difficult days of my career here at the Troy Daily News.

I clearly remember that the afternoon was what we considered a “slow news day.” In fact, the news day was so slow I had encouraged Cecilia Fox, our Weekly Record Herald editor, to go home as I wrapped up the rest of the day’s work.

I heard the scanner traffic pick up shortly after 2 p.m. of the first reports of the events unfolding on Elm Street.

The emotion in the voice of one medic as they made their way to Upper Valley Medical Center will always stay with me. As the medic rattled off stats to the emergency room, the fear and the struggle to save these small children was so raw and real.

Anytime a child is involved in a tragic situation, our community grieves and comes together to support one another.

Earlier this month, city council took action to mandate carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in all residential rental properties. The fire department has already helped install more than 280 detectors in homes and the Troy Foundation set up funding to help people procure detectors who may have not had access prior to this incident.

One can hope many of our city’s rental property owners were well ahead of the city’s amended ordinance, but then again, not all landlords are proactive. Before Feb. 27, 2015, carbon monoxide poisoning wasn’t even on many of our radars, let alone, considered as a possible cause of illness and in this case, death.

Like many of us, last year was the first time I came home and considered carbon monoxide as a threat to the health of my own household. Lead poisoning, fire hazards and other household injuries I had thought of, but carbon monoxide poisoning was not one of them.

And one of the hardest things about this tragic events was that it was preventable with just one small piece of equipment — a $20 detector.

The loss of these three precious children will be felt for years to come, yet their lives will be honored through each installation of a detector to save other lives here in Troy and beyond.

Thank you to the city’s first responders who were on call of that fateful day. Thank you to the staff at the Troy Fire Department for their continuing education about the dangers of CO2 poisoning. Thank you to the generous donors who gave to the Troy Foundation to help those in need to add one more important piece of safety equipment in our city homes. And thank you to city council for taking one more step to ensure the health and safety of the community.

If the community of Troy can help prevent one more loss of life from the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, it will be the best gift to honor the lives of Dionanna, Jakia and Dejah.


By Melanie Yingst

Melanie Yingst appears weekly in the Troy Daily News.

Melanie Yingst appears weekly in the Troy Daily News.