Oregon, OH – Wellness checks are a frequent call Oregon police officers respond to. But, for patrolmen Kallin St. John and Brandon Gardull, stopping by Karen Smeltzer’s home is a check they won’t soon forget. It quickly became an eye opening and life saving experience.
About two weeks ago Karen Smeltzer came home on a Thursday evening, parked in the garage, and got ready for bed. But, she forgot to turn off the car.
“It has happened before. It’s the new push button cars and it’s a very quiet car. So, when you pull into the garage and get out you don’t hear it running. So, it doesn’t trigger you,” said Smeltzer.
Then on Friday, she missed appointments and didn’t answer calls or knocks on her door. She works with her son, Luie Garcia. He knew something was off.
“The last couple of hours…two, three hours prior to that, I was pretty stressed out and nerve-racked and wanting to know where my mom’s at,” said Garcia.
Eventually, his wife made a call to the Oregon Police Divison for a wellness check.
Officer Kallin St. John and Brandon Gardull knocked on Karen’s door. When she didn’t answer, they went around back and saw her through the window.
“I remember them banging on the back window and saying “Ma’am, can you let us in? Can you let us in?’ and I remember sitting like this and I could not… My legs were like jelly. I could not stand up,” said Smeltzer.
Karen seemed out of it – lethargic and slow. So, they picked the lock.
“We instantly smelled a strong odor of, I mean, I’ve never smelled carbon monoxide before. So, we just knew it wasn’t normal and it wasn’t good,” said St. John.
The officers vented windows and took turns caring for Karen to make sure they didn’t inhale the poison themselves.
“We’re here to serve and protect any way that we possibly can. So, anything like this where we can actually go in and help somebody and save a life that’s a really gratifying thing for us,” said St. John.
The car had been running for roughly twelve hours. Carbon monoxide seeped into Karen’s home and even a neighbor’s.
“Without their action, my mom might not be here today,” said Garcia.
It’s opened all of their eyes to the dangers of this silent killer. Now everyone has detectors installed.
“Saving someone’s life is what it’s all about,” said Gardull.
Karen’s learned a few lessons, and couldn’t be more grateful.
“I have a note on my back door that says ‘did you shut the car off?'” said Smeltzer.
Both officers are employees of the month for their life saving actions. Of course this story serves as a critical reminder on the importance of carbon monoxide detectors. As we fall back this weekend, it’s a good time to check your smoke detectors too.