Gas leak kills five at grandmother's birthday party
Muju police and firefighters identified the dead as an 84-year-old woman who owned the house, her 64-year-old son-in-law, 49-year-old son-in-law, 42-year-old daughter and 33-year-old granddaughter.
The homeowner’s 57-year-old daughter was the only survivor. She’s hospitalized in Iksan, North Jeolla, but police said Monday she was still unconscious.
Police investigating the case have ruled out the possibility of foul play.
The five younger people visited the house last Saturday from out of town to celebrate the 84-year-old’s birthday. The homeowner’s son called the police the next day saying that none of his relatives were picking up their phones.
Police went to the scene at around 4:55 p.m. on Sunday to find three people lying in the living room, two in a bedroom and one inside a bathroom.
The five people outside the bathroom were all dead and the 57-year-old daughter was unconscious in the bathroom.
None had any bruises on their bodies.
Officers at the Muju Police Precinct briefed local reporters that carbon monoxide was found in the blood of all five fatalities.
“I think the [57-year-old] daughter sensed something was wrong and crawled to the restroom before she passed out,” a police officer said.
“Carbon monoxide had spread across the house when we came to the scene so much so that we had to wear oxygen masks to get in.”
Police and forensic officials blame a leaky gas heater.
Exactly when the gas heater was installed is unknown, police said, though early investigations show that the homeowner used it for at least a couple of years, possibly without any safety checkups.
In a Facebook post on Monday, President Yoon Suk-yeol expressed his condolences and called on government officials to devise a plan to look out for old people living alone.
Yoon stressed the importance of institutionalizing safety inspections of facilities and providing systematic support measures for underprivileged groups of society, who are in the “blind spot of welfare.”
BY KIM JUN-HEE, LEE SUNG-EUN [email@example.com]