For much of the country, 2014 has been a frigid mix of cold, ice, and snow. This is great news for ice fishermen, but Utah officials are warning anglers to stay safe, especially when using their heaters. A father and son from Stansbury Park, Utah were found dead in the Flaming Gorge on Tuesday. According to Fox 13, officials say the pair died from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning caused by a heater inside their hut.
Steven McConnell, 58, and his son Matthew McConnell, 17, were fishing with others in Flaming Gorge on Monday when they decided to stay overnight. The next morning they were found to be unresponsive. Officials later identified a propane heater as the source of the carbon monoxide poisoning, which was still lit when responders arrived.
“It’s a shock,” Steven McConnell’s daughter Laurie told The Salt Lake Tribune. “My dad was so careful about everything. I wish people could know how organized my dad is, and how safety-minded he is.”
Laurie McConnell added that both her father and brother were experienced sportsmen.
“This was a terrible accident and no foul play is suspected,” said Col. Rick Hawkins of the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office. “If you are camping in any shelter with a burning heater or stove, it’s important that your tent, hut or camper be well-ventilated.”
Anglers should be reminded that fuel-burning heaters give off carbon monoxide, which can be fatal to humans or pets. Ice fishermen are advised to never use a grill inside their shelter for cooking, and that heaters should only be used with proper ventilation. Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include dizziness, confusion, fatigue, stomach sickness, and headaches. When fishing in groups, anglers should pay attention to the condition of others and act immediately if symptoms arise, especially if more than one person has them. Experts say the worst thing to do is to ignore these signs; carbon monoxide poisoning could kill within minutes.