Fatalities from boat exhaust studied; 2 Colo. boys among 9 Lake Powell deaths
The Arizona Republic
November 30, 2000

PHOENIX - Carbon monoxide poisonings have caused nine deaths and sickened 102 people in 10 years at a reservoir straddling Arizona and Utah, leading investigators to fear houseboat exhaust may be sickening people across America.

Seven of the deaths and two-thirds of the poisonings on Lake Powell were associated with the exhaust from electric generators on privately owned houseboats, including those of two Parker boys, ages 8 and 11.

Investigators found improbably high levels of the colorless, odorless and potentially deadly gas often gathering beneath the swimming deck of houseboats, called the "death zone" by researchers.

"The carbon monoxide concentrations are so high where you have your children playing, where you are watching them play," said Jane McCammon of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Lake Powell is the first area to be extensively studied, but investigators are finding similar situations elsewhere. They will examine Lake Cumberland, Ky., where 15 people overcome by carbon monoxide fumes on two houseboats were hospitalized in August.

The Coast Guard is studying the issue but is not sure what to do, the Arizona Republic reported. "The builders of these boats are technically not in violation of any rules," said Randolph Jay Doubt, a Coast Guard engineer.

A Phoenix emergency-room doctor spotted the trend after an autopsy showed that two Colorado boys who supposedly drowned in Lake Powell this summer actually died from asphyxiation due to carbon monoxide exposure. Logan and Dillon Dixey, 8 and 11 years old, were swimming around and under their family's houseboat on Lake Powell. They swam into the "death zone." Suddenly, Logan lost consciousness and sank. Dillon went into convulsions, then sank.

With those deaths, something clicked for Dr. Robert Baron, the co-director of the emergency center at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center and the medical director for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Arizona authorities have begun a public awareness program, and the Coast Guard is alerting manufacturers.

For the boys' father, Kenneth Dixey, a bitterness remains. "Why did it take my two sons' lives to get this going?"


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