by Kait Morris and Tyrrell Meertins
Three people are dead at a Brampton home this morning following what police believe is a case of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Jerry Pitamber, 29, arrived home early Monday morning and heard the home’s carbon monoxide detectors going off. Pitamber found his 60-year-old father, Peter, on the floor without vital signs. His mother, Seeta, 59, and brother Terry, 36, were also found without vital signs.
According to CP24’s Cam Wooley, the three who died were found on the main floor and another two men were in the basement. Peter’s 56-year-old brother, Paul Rampersaud, and a family friend went to hospital and have since been released.
A propane heater was removed from the home as were two propane tanks.
Firefighters have reported that carbon monoxide levels in the home were more than double the fatal dose.
Police say the family had brought two propane heaters into the house in order to keep warm, as the family’s furnace had stopped working Sunday.
The family owns the nearby Calypso Hut restaurant at Queen and Rutherford.
The restaurant is closed today.
Rampersaud released a statement on behalf of the family:
“Today has been an unimaginable and horrific day for our family,” it reads. “The past few weeks have been extremely difficult, as we have been grieving the death of my mother who passed a few weeks ago.
“My brother, Peter Pitamber, came to this country from Guyana over three decades ago. From humble beginnings he became a respected businessman and active member of the Brampton community. Peter built a strong home for his family, and we ask that you now pray for his surviving son, Jerry.
“We are currently in the process of making funeral arrangements and would ask that the media kindly respect our privacy during this devastating time.”
Friends and family were shocked to hear the news.
“I was in shock. We’re still in shock,” said Valerie Madhoo, an acquaintance of the family.
She said she worries that carbon monoxide poisoning could happen in her home.
People in the community were also dismayed by the news.
After yesterday’s tragic events in Brampton let us all remember that carbon monoxide is serious.Please ensure your detectors are working.#CO
— Townend Plb & Htg (@Townendplbhtg) March 17, 2014
Such a tragedy. Take the lesson friends, don’t ever bring portable fuel burning items indoors. It’s not worth… http://t.co/zk8z0dYfSL
— Jim Datlen (@JimDatlen) March 17, 2014
Claire Peters and Emily Bright, in Brampton today, called the event “devastating.”
Both Peters and Bright have electric carbon monoxide detectors and check them regularly.
“It’s really, really sad,” said Bright.
They also questioned the safety of the decision to use a propane device in a closed space.
“Though the investigation isn’t complete yet, it seems like the appliance was being used in a manner for which it wasn’t designed,” Brian Maltby, a deputy fire chief in Brampton, told Humber News. “For example, it seems like the appliance that caused the carbon monoxide poisoning was a burner of some sort that was not designed to heat a space, but rather prepare food.”
Propane tanks should never be used indoors, he said.
“Your two lines of defence are to maintain your fuel fire appliances in appropriate condition and to protect yourself with the use of a carbon monoxide alarm,” said Maltby.
He recommends that fuel fire appliances, which include everything from furnaces to wood-burning stoves, be assessed by a technician annually and that carbon monoxide devices should be tested regularly and replaced every seven to ten years.
Maltby also explained that there is currently legislation going through to mandate the inclusion of carbon monoxide detectors in new buildings.
“Back in November, Bill 77 was passed at the provincial level and it’s going to change the Ontario fire code so that the fire code requires that existing buildings be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors.”
He expects the legislation to go through this summer.