'Silent Killer' claims lives of Golden Valley couple

A Golden Valley couple lost their lives to a "silent killer" - carbon monoxide poisoning - earlier this month.

On June 1, Elmer and Mary Langford, an elderly couple, were preparing to leave on a trip the following day.

But neighbors George and Karen Sharkey became concerned when the Langfords failed to show up for a card game that evening.

When the Sharkeys went to the couple's home, they found Elmer and Mary lying on the floor in separate bathrooms.

The Golden Valley Fire Department was called, but the couple was pronounced dead at the scene, said Mohave County Sheriff's Office media specialist Steve Johnson.

When sheriff's detectives were called to the Langford home on Mars Drive, they found the couple's Cadillac with the ignition on and the gas tank empty, parked in the garage next to the air-conditioning unit, according to information from the sheriff's office.

Mohave County Medical Examiner Don Nelson obtained blood samples from the victims.

Lab tests on the blood indicated high levels of carbon monoxide, he said.

Detectives believe the couple was about to drive to the store earlier that day, started the car in the garage and left it running.

The engine exhaust was then sucked into the air-conditioning system and built up throughout the house.

The couple was found six to eight hours later, according the the sheriff's office.

"It was a preventable accident.

It is possible the tragedy may have been prevented if there had been a carbon monoxide detector inside the home," said Capt.

Greg Duncan of the Kingman Fire Department.

"It's very important that people have a carbon monoxide detector and alarm and a smoke detector inside their home.

A carbon monoxide detector costs about $10 to $15," he said.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is known as the "silent killer" because it is odorless and tasteless during initial exposure, said Jude McNally, managing director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center.

Statistics at the center show 31 fatalities in Arizona last year as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.

"But it could be 10 times that many in the state, because we only follow up on cases in which we have been called, not the ones that didn1t call," McNally said.

"In many instances victims aren't found until it is too late."

The Kingman Fire Department has received more carbon monoxide calls in recent years than in the past.

But Capt.

Bill Johnston said the reason for the increase is better detection, not more incidences.

"There has been a dramatic increase (in carbon monoxide calls) because more people have carbon monoxide alarms now," Johnston said.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that interferes with the delivery of oxygen throughout the body.

At high concentrations, it can cause unconsciousness and death.

Lower concentrations can cause a range of symptoms from headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, confusion and disorientation, to fatigue, Johnston said.

People with chronic heart disease who experience carbon monoxide poisoning can have episodes of increased chest pain, according to the U.

S.

Environmental Protection Agency.

"Carbon monoxide poisoning kills several hundred people a year in the United States.

It is a senseless, preventable way to die," Johnston said.

Without proper ventilation, gas stoves, dryers, water heaters, heaters, fireplaces or wood-burning stoves can emit carbon monoxide.

Johnston said precautions should be taken with any appliance with a combustible chamber, such as gas ovens and gas dryers.