It was supposed to be a special trip for the Free family of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
“It was our first trip to Lake Eufaula,” Cassandra Free told TODAY Health.
Unfortunately, a tragic turn of events turned their trip into quite the opposite of what they had hoped for.
Now Cassandra is warning other parents about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning that can occur while boating.
The Frees were enjoying a day on Oklahoma’s largest lake with several adults that each had 20 years experience of boating under their belts.
Her youngest son had been near the rear of the boat throughout the day and ended up falling unconscious and into the lake.
Andrew Brady, 9, never regained consciousness and died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
This came as an incredible shock to Cassandra and the rest of the adults on board the boat who had no idea something like this could occur.
“One of the things we hadn’t considered was the long no-wake zone,” Free said referring to the area of the lake where boats are required to slow down.
“We had no idea it was so dangerous. Prior to that we had been out doing our normal stuff, tubing, wake surfing.”
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can is poisonous and can kill if one breathes too much of it in.
It is emitted by gasoline-powered engines like the one in your car or boat. According to the Centers for Disease Control, some boats have generators that vent toward the rear of the boat which can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning for those who are swimming or sitting near this part of the boat.
“CO that builds up in the air space beneath the stern deck or on and near the swim deck can kill someone in seconds. Traveling at slow speeds or idling in the water can cause CO to build up in a boat’s cabin, cockpit, bridge, and aft deck, or in an open area. Wind from the aft section of the boat can increase this buildup of CO,” the CDC’s website explains. “Back drafting can cause CO to build up inside the cabin, cockpit, and bridge when a boat is operated at a high bow angle, is improperly or heavily loaded, or has an opening that draws in exhaust.”
Andrew was sitting at the rear of the boat for most of the day and their boat was traveling at slower speeds.
Symptoms of poisoning include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, passing out, and confusion.
They noticed their son didn’t seem fully vibrant but assumed that it was because of the long day.
“Looking back, hindsight is 20/20. It was not unusual for our kids to be tired and cranky. You’re out in the sun all day,” Cassandra said in tears.
Andy went toward the back of the boat to rest and curled up into a ball while the other kids complained about not feeling well and needing a nap.
That’s when Andrew eventually rolled off of the boat into the lake. His body was retrieved and they performed CPR but he never regained consciousness and died.
It was determined that Andrew died of open-air carbon monoxide poisoning.
His two brothers were also treated for acute carbon monoxide poisoning later that night.
After her son’s death, Cassandra warned other parents in a Facebook post about the dangers of open-air carbon monoxide poisoning that ended up going viral.
“Now you know- at the loss of our precious child, you now know that it can happen and it does happen. It may be a one-in-a-million chance, but it exists. It happens in minutes- sometimes within 60 seconds,” she wrote.
Cassandra hopes that her story can prevent other families from having to endure the same tragedy as hers did.
She implores parents to make sure their watercrafts are properly inspected and that they also follow guidelines on how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning on boats from the CDC which found here.
You can read Cassandra’s full post below.
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Make this go viral. This is the hardest post I will ever have to write, but this information needs to be shared.Andrew…