Four people were poisoned by carbon monoxide, two fatally, while trying to get warm in cars Saturday.
A 14-year-old Roxbury boy, who was helping his father shovel out their car in front of their Nazing Street home, jumped inside the vehicle and was overcome by fumes that had backed into the car because snow plugged its tailpipe, officials said.
“He’s not breathing, He’s not breathing,” yelled the father after finding his son unresponsive, witnesses said. The father, possibly because of distress, went into respiratory arrest and collapsed on a snowbank. He was rushed to Boston Medical Center where he was listed in serious but stable condition Saturday.
The teen’s death was one of two attributed to the buildup of the deadly gas inside a vehicle with its exhaust pipe covered by snow. Less than 2 miles away, on Woolson Street in Mattapan, a man in his 20s was found dead inside a car at about 4:40 p.m.
In East Boston, a brother and sister, ages 4 and 7, were found unconscious shortly before 5 p.m. inside a car on Porter Street. They were rushed to a hospital and treated for carbon monoxide poisoning. Police said the children are expected to survive.
Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said the Mattapan victim was found sitting in a car with the engine running.
“Neighbors told us the guy was in the car since 11 a.m. Saturday,” MacDonald said. “They broke the window and there was no response.”
None of the four victims was identified by police.
Barbara Ferrer, head of the Boston Public Health Commission, said the two deaths appear accidental.
“All indications are that these were tragic accidents, where people were in their cars, with tailpipes that were blocked,” she said, during a press conference Saturday night at Boston Emergency Medical Services.
The incidents prompted the Boston Police Department to issue warnings about the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.
On its website, the department said car exhausts should be clear of snow and vehicles should be moved out of garages immediately after they are started. Police also warned that proper ventilation is needed for indoor fireplaces and that barbecue grills should not be used indoors.
Ferrer urged Boston residents to reach out to immigrants and non-English speakers. “We’re a very diverse city,” she said. “Folks who haven’t been here for a long time, may not know how to deal with snow.
At the same press conference, Daniel Linskey, superintendent-in-chief of the Boston police, said officers on patrol will alert residents to be vigilant about digging out vents and tailpipes of cars.
“We are bullhorning, and stopping people . . . to remind them of the [importance] of clearing that tailpipe out,” he said.
Residents on Nazing Street , who were still clearing snow around their vehicles in the afternoon, stopped periodically to discuss what had happened. And at the boy’s residence just across Blue Hill Avenue, relatives and friends left the second-floor apartment in tears, declining to comment.
Shakiena Phifer said she gave the boy CPR after the father carried him inside .
“He brought him into the hallway and me and a neighbor performed CPR on the boy,” said Phifer, 25.
“His eyes were rolled back and his lips completely white . . . he gave no response.”
Emergency crews soon arrived and took over, Phifer said.
Reflecting on the events prior to the boy’s death, Phifer said she went outside at 11 a.m. and the father and son were already out shoveling. She chatted with them for about 10 minutes. Phifer said she went to her car to start shoveling. “About 10 or 15 minutes later, we hear the dad yelling,” she said. “He was in the car while the dad was shoveling.”
Residents said a plow got stuck on the street, right next to the father’s gray sedan. The passenger’s side had already been dug out, but the truck deposited even more snow on the other side, residents said.
“The plowing did definitely barricade in the car. But did it contribute to the death of the little boy? I don’t think so; it was just a tragic event,” Phifer said.
Ciara Washington, a neighbor, described the boy as a well-mannered child who was often seen carrying a basketball around. “People are very upset about this,” she said.Brian Ballou can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Kathy McCabe can be reached at email@example.com.