Let it be a lesson to all campers: A 14-year-old British girl died on Sunday after apparently breathing in fumes from a disposable barbecue left inside her tent.
The girl, her parents, and brother were all found unconscious at around 9:45 a.m. Sunday morning in their tent in the Shropshire village of Bucknell in central England. All had enjoyed a meal together the previous night and witnesses said a disposable barbecue was found inside the tent Sunday morning. Authorities believe they had either mistakenly used it to keep the tent warm or had believed it was extinguished.
A doctor staying at a neighboring campsite attempted to resuscitate the teenager, identified as Hannah Thomas-Jones, but she was pronounced dead at the scene when paramedics arrived some 15 minutes later. The brother, believed to be 11, was airlifted out, while the parents were transported to Royal Shrewsbury Hospital by land. The surviving family members were all in stable condition Sunday night but remained hospitalized from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.
Phil and Debra Wright, owners of the Baron at Bucknell pub and its adjacent campsite, told the BBC the family was part of a larger group comprised of the mother's two sisters and their respective partners and children.
Mr. Wright said the group had become concerned when no one in the tent awoke Sunday morning. He called the tragedy a horrible accident.
Nobody has done anything wrong, they have just not realized the dangers of disposable barbecues, he said. You don't realize that they are giving off fumes for hours and hours after you have used them.
The family, said to be seasoned campers, reportedly arranged three tents around a gazebo used for cooking and eating. The weather over the weekend was dry, but close to freezing. It's believed someone moved the disposable barbecue into the tent after dinner to keep warm.
The West Mercia Police said the death was not being treated as suspicious.
Although our work at the scene concluded yesterday afternoon, we will continue to work with the Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service to investigate this incident, Detective Inspector Gavin Kinrade said in a statement. We are treating the girl's death as unexplained, but there do not appear to be any suspicious circumstances. It is therefore unlikely we will have any longer term involvement with this incident.
Royal Shrewsbury Hospital released a brief statement on behalf of the extended family saying they were devastated by the tragedy.
Our priority as a family is to ensure that the three people in hospital get well and are fully recovered, the family said, asking for privacy.
The death comes just a month after another British child was found dead of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at a campsite in the New Forest, Hampshire. A similar incident occurred last July when a woman found dead in a tent at a Norfolk campsite was thought to have been poisoned by fumes from a charcoal barbecue.
As a rule of thumb, campers are urged to use disposable or portable barbecues far away from tents in areas with proper ventilation due to the potential rapid buildup of carbon monoxide fumes.
Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer and claims the lives of around 25 people in Britain alone each year. The gas is colorless and odorless and most victims fall unconscious without ever realizing anything is wrong. Initial symptoms include dizziness and headaches, but the deadly gas can quickly knock someone out by depraving them of oxygen. High levels of carbon monoxide can kill in minutes.