Valley County, MT – A 70-year-old Valley County man is dead from apparent carbon monoxide poisoning after a malfunction from a heating system installed in the man’s home leaked the gas into the home’s living area, said Valley County Sheriff and Coroner Tom Boyer. The body of Kenneth Portra was sent to Billings for autopsy last week after he died in his home. His wife had also been in the home but was able to call 911 and was rescued by paramedics.
According to the Sheriff, the incident occurred around 5 a.m. on Dec. 11. The nature of the carbon monoxide poisoning is still under investigation, but Boyer believes the source was a recently installed heating system. Until the investigation is complete, Boyer has declined to say who had installed the unit.
The Center for Disease Control says that each year over 400 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning not linked to fires and another 20,000 visit the emergency room with more than 4,000 having to be hospitalized from the gas. Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that occurs whenever fuel is being burned in gas or diesel engines (such as those found in automobiles), lanterns, stoves, fireplaces or furnaces.
The CDC recommends that a carbon monoxide detector be installed in homes and that the batteries be replaced each time a person changes the clocks for daylight savings in the Spring and Fall. The detector should be replaced every five years. It is also recommended that heating systems, water heaters and any gas, coal or oil burning appliances be serviced each year by a qualified technician. Chimneys and vents should also be checked for obstructions each year and any gas appliance should be certified by a national testing agency. It is never recommended that gas heaters, charcoal fires, camp stoves or gas or diesel generators be used indoors or within 20 feet of a window or door.