Bahamas Sandals deaths: what to know about carbon monoxide poisoning, a quiet killer

American Tourists at Bahama resort died from carbon monoxide poisoning, officials said

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Three American tourists at the Sandals resort in the Bahamas died due to carbon monoxide poisoning, according to media reports.

As Fox news reported the tourists were found dead earlier this month at the all-inclusive resort. Multiple reports said four people visited a clinic on Thursday evening complaining of nausea and vomiting. They were treated then returned to their villa. Three of the individuals were found dead Friday, May 6, reports said. 

Health officials said Monday that the three tourists died from carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Robbie and Michael Phillips, two of the victims discovered dead on May 6 at Sandals Emerald Bay in Great Exuma, Bahamas. Samples extracted from the couple and a Florida resident who also died have been sent to a U.S. lab for testing. 

Robbie and Michael Phillips, two of the victims discovered dead on May 6 at Sandals Emerald Bay in Great Exuma, Bahamas. Samples extracted from the couple and a Florida resident who also died have been sent to a U.S. lab for testing.  (Facebook/Thesandalslady)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accidental carbon monoxide poisoning sends approximately 50,000 people in the United States to the emergency department each year. The CDC also said at least 430 people in the U.S. die from accidental CO poisoning each year. 

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Health experts told Fox News that carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that is formed from the burning of fuel. The experts explained that carbon monoxide poisoning could occur if an area is not properly vented.

The beach area at the Sandals Emerald Bay resort.

The beach area at the Sandals Emerald Bay resort. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Sandals)

Dr. Fred Davis, D.O., MPH, is a board certified emergency medicine physician at Northwell Health on Long Island, New York, and spoke to Fox News about carbon monoxide poisoning.  Davis told Fox News, "Carbon monoxide replaces oxygen on hemoglobin, the carrier of oxygen in our blood, and prevents oxygen from getting to cells. This leads to headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and if one stays in the affected area, passing out and death."

Davis, who is also the associate chair of emergency medicine at Northwell Health, said the best way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is to have carbon monoxide detectors at home.  

FILE - Photo of the Sandals Emerald Bay Resort during the third round of the Web.com Tour's The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay golf course on Jan. 15, 2019, in Great Exuma, Bahamas. 

FILE - Photo of the Sandals Emerald Bay Resort during the third round of the Web.com Tour's The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay golf course on Jan. 15, 2019, in Great Exuma, Bahamas.  (Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)

Davis told Fox News, "If you are in a place where there is the burning of fuel (even some cooking appliances like stoves, or water heaters, and exhaust from cars) and you start having such symptoms, the first thing to do is remove yourself from the area." Davis added, "Being able to go into an open area away from such items can help to relieve mild symptoms."

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The emergency department physician said the elderly, young children, individuals with underlying respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, and those who are pregnant are most susceptible to CO poisoning.

According to the CDC, individuals who are asleep or those who drank alcohol can die from CO poisoning before displaying symptoms.

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The CDC provided the following tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning on their website: 

  • Never use a gas range or oven to heat a home.
  • Never leave the motor running in a vehicle parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as a garage.
  • Never run a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage, or other enclosed structure, even if the doors or windows are open, unless the equipment is professionally installed and vented. Keep vents and flues free of debris, especially if winds are high. Flying debris can block ventilation lines.
  • Never run a motor vehicle, generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine less than 20 feet from an open window, door, or vent where exhaust can vent into an enclosed area.
  • Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern, or portable camping stove inside a home, tent, or camper.
  • If conditions are too hot or too cold, seek shelter with friends or at a community shelter.

The CDC also recommends that if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning seek medical attention right away.