Green, OH – Raymond Pulliam couldn’t sleep.
He tried, but his home’s carbon monoxide alarm would always rouse him.
He didn’t see a problem. He didn’t feel sick. There were no obvious signs.
His calls to Green firefighters confirmed the mystery.
“No, that’s one thing strange ya know. I don’t know what the source would be, he told a dispatcher.
The source was on the other side of a wall. Despite two alarms, but no one checked next door.
And those fumes were slowly killing his neighbor, 94-year-old Ross Emery.
It was shocking, Pulliam later said.
Earlier that night, Emery did what the widower always did: He parked his Toyota in his attached garage, tossed his key fob on the kitchen counter and sat down for dinner.
He later went to sleep. He would never awaken.
As his family would later learn and an autopsy would later show Emery died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
His mistake that night is not uncommon, dozens have died that same way.
Emery forgot to push the button to turn off his sedan. And unlike many vehicles equipped with similar keyless ignitions, Emery’s 2015 Avalon did not have an automatic safety shutoff.
As a result, his car quietly ran non-stop for 10 hours, filling Emery’s home with the colorless and odorless fumes and robbing his brain and heart of oxygen. He had CO levels in his blood that are considered 2,000 times more than what is safe, autopsy records show.
The engine only stopped when the gas tank – that Emery had filled earlier that night – ran empty.
It was just one sad, sad day, said Emery’s son, Michael. One of the worst days of my life. Dad’s 94 and everyday had been something. And now, he’s gone.
I can only hope that he had a peaceful passing. All that goes through your mind, ya know.
Ross Emery may have been pushing 100 years old, but he kept up a full, vibrant life. And family always came first for the World War II vet. He volunteered. He helped run Michael’s business. In retirement, he enjoyed walking, and visiting with his six children and 15 grandchildren.
Our whole family was revolving around him, Michael Emery, 70, recalled.
What happened to Ross Emery has happened often. Reports show 34 people with keyless ignitions dying of CO poisoning since 2006 after failing to turn off their vehicle. Another 46 have been injured.
Attorney Nicholas Phillips, who is representing the Emery family in a wrongful death lawsuit against Toyota, said drivers have been conditioned to believe their cars are off when the keys are taken inside.
Emery’s key fob, which is needed to start the vehicle, was inside his condo. The separation, however, does not affect an engine. A button must be pressed to stop the motor.
Well, it’s absolutely, totally avoidable because there’s no reason a car should be running for 10 hours without interruption and allowing these gases, these lethal gases, being generated, Phillips said.
There was no need at all for him to die on that day that he died.it’s a very serious thing, obviously, and it has an inevitable result.
Toyota said it plans to change its keyless ignition system in 2020 and introduce auto-shut off systems. Most Toyota current and older models with keyless systems do have an audible alarm when the driver exits with the motor still running.
A company spokesman declined to comment directly on the family’s lawsuit.
Our focus is on the safety and security of our customers, and we sympathize with the friends and family of Mr. Emery. We will address the allegations in this lawsuit in the appropriate forum. Toyota’s Smart Key System meets or exceeds all relevant federal safety standards and provides multiple layers of visual and auditory warnings to alert occupants that the vehicle is running when the driver exits.
To the Emery family, they contend the changes are too late.
I could’ve lost my entire family because of this, Michael Emery said. But how many more will lose their lives?