Four members of an Edinburg family of five were found dead Monday from carbon monoxide poisoning due to the use of a generator, with the sole survivor being a 12-year-old girl who remains in critical condition, local officials said during a news conference Tuesday.
The family used a generator, according to city and police officials, after losing power due to Hurricane Hanna over the weekend, which at its peak knocked out electricity for around 200,000 customers.
At the news conference, Mayor Richard Molina shared his condolences and addressed the electrical issue impacting the city as a result of the storm.
“On behalf of the mayor and the entire city council, we want to extend our condolences to the family of the four people that passed away overnight,” Molina said. “We know there’s still one family member hospitalized today, and we pray for a full recovery.”
Molina said that the deaths appear to be accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
Police Chief Cesar Torres said that neighbors contacted police at 6:43 p.m. Monday after growing concerned about not having seen the family.
Upon arrival at the 2000 block of Woodstone Drive, police found a family of five unconscious inside the residence. Police also observed a running generator inside the home.
Torres said that four of the five family members were dead. A 12-year-old girl was found to be alive but in critical condition. She was transferred to an Edinburg Hospital, where she remains in critical condition.
The deceased family members include a 34-year-old woman, a 33-year-old man, a 17-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy. The police department is withholding the identities of the deceased out of respect for the family and next of kin.
“It is with heavy hearts that we have to announce the tragic deaths of a young family in the city of Edinburg,” Torres said. “In this case, a young and innocent family was just trying to make the best of the aftermath of Hurricane Hanna.”
While investigating the incident, the chief said police discovered another family using a generator inside their home.
“During this investigation, while visiting with neighbors, we discovered another home where another family had a generator inside their residence,” Torres said. “It is through the intervention of the first responders that was crucial in preventing another loss of life.”
Torres said that his department responded to another call Tuesday morning in which a generator was placed adjacent to a house with the window open.
“The carbon monoxide was entering the home,” Torres said. “First-aid was provided to said family, and they survived.
“We want to inform the community that generators are not to be inside of homes when they’re running. They release carbon monoxide, which is lethal and dangerous.”
Torres explained the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, which include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and loss of consciousness.
At the beginning of the news conference, Molina addressed the electrical situation that is still impacting many people throughout the Rio Grande Valley and forcing many to resort to generators.
“Right now there is a situation that we’re dealing with,” Molina said. “Right now, there’s thousands of people in Edinburg that don’t have power. My family was one of them. We just got power back, and we didn’t have power for almost three days. So I can speak from experience how difficult it is for everyone who is waiting for electrical providers to restore power.”
As of Monday, over 80,000 Magic Valley Electric Cooperative customers were without power throughout the Valley. AEP Texas also reported decreasing the number of outages in the Valley from 152,000 customers on Sunday morning to 57,000.
There were also 22 intersections in the city without power.
“Please know that we are currently in contact with power companies, and we’re doing all that we can to speed things up,” Molina said. “But understand that they are dealing with a situation of power outages from Corpus Christi all the way to Brownsville. Restoring your power, unfortunately, is not in the city of Edinburg’s hands.”