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Family Safe After Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Kealey Bultena
Xaiveor, Zavion, Dymond, and Mystik Holloway pose for a photo with Sioux Falls Police Officer Ryan Chase.

Four children and their parents are alive after first responders saved them from carbon monoxide poisoning. Sioux Falls emergency leaders say the deadly gas has no smell, no taste and no color. That makes it hard to detect. Family members are telling their story of a close call to encourage others to purchase carbon monoxide detectors.

Michael Holloway says his weekend started as usual. His family stayed in bed Saturday while he got up to make breakfast for everyone. Holloway says he realized something was wrong when his daughter said she couldn’t feel her legs.

"And then when I got upstairs I heard my other son gasping, so then I ran in there and found him facedown, so then I picked him up and got him away from the vent. And then I started calling to my wife to call 911 and get everybody out of the house," Holloway says. "And at that time I set him down to go check on the rest of them, and when I came around the corner to the stairs they all had collapsed."

"I would spend anything in the world for one now and let everybody know they're very important." -Marchelle Holloway

Holloway scrambled to a neighbor’s house to call for help. He says his memory is patchy, but he recalls Sioux Falls Police Officer Ryan Chase at his home. Chase got to the house first; he says everyone suspected poison in the air and he went into the home anyway. 

"From the door you could see two of the kids. One was halfway down the stairwell; it looked like he’d been walking down and just passed out or went unconscious. There was a little 10-year-old girl who was at the bottom of the stairs; she was unconscious and mom was trying to sit up also down at the bottom of the stairs – trying to push the little girl up but she couldn’t even stand up," Chase says. "I mean, you see that and you know it’s a real bad situation, but it’s what we do. So you’ve got to go in and do the best you can and hope you make it out."

Credit Kealey Bultena / SDPB
Marchelle and Michael Holloway talk about their scare with a carbon monoxide leak at their home.

Chase, a neighbor, and emergency responders helped both parents and all four kids escape. Sioux Falls Fire Rescue crews say a furnace is to blame for the leak.

Marchelle Holloway says her family didn’t have a carbon monoxide detector in the house.

"You know, I’ve been taught about smoke detectors, but I never, ever thought of it," Marchelle Holloway says. "And I would spend anything in the world for one now and let everybody know they’re very important."

The Holloways say they’re grateful for first responders who helped them at their home and for health workers who treated them for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Chief Jim Sideras says the gas has no color, taste or smell, so a person doesn’t notice it.

"They’re estimating an hour time frame that this happened, so it can build up very rapidly. And what happens is is carbon monoxide binds to you blood and it pushes off oxygen, so you are becoming oxygen-starved. And we have seen cases of this happen in a very short period of time or it can be a long period of time. It just depends. But it’s serious," Sideras says. "The only thing you can do is to prevent this is carbon monoxide detector, because that’s going to be your early warning. And the key is, we don’t mind coming out. If it goes off, call us. If you don’t have one, you might not be able to call us – and that’s the difference."

Sideras says carbon monoxide makes people dizzy, tired and nauseated. He says it can also cause headaches and difficulty breathing.

The fire chief says people should read instructions that come with carbon monoxide detectors. He recommends placing the alarm near bedrooms, because the sound can alert someone in bed sick with flu symptoms that the problem is poison.

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).