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Parliamentarians join call for CO safety on boats following report into Lake Windermere deaths

27 January 2015

A new investigative report from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) into the deaths in 2013 of a mother and daughter from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning on a boat on Lake Windermere has been published today.

The MAIB report into the deaths on the pleasure craft Arniston outlines some similar safety issues to those identified in a report by the organisation into the deaths from CO poisoning of two men on board the small fishing vessel Eschol in January 2014, despite the source of the CO being different in each incident.

In neither case was a functional CO alarm present that could have alerted occupants to the dangerous build-up of deadly CO gas.

Following the announcement, Jason McCartney MP, co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group (APPCOG) commented: "Our thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims of these awful tragedies on boats. It’s vital the public understands that CO is a deadly gas which emanates from many different sources, not just domestic gas boilers as many believe.

"We hope that there is swift action to implement the recommendations outlined in the MAIB report, so that similar tragedies are avoided in the future. The APPCOG is determined to carry on working with the emergency services, campaign groups and industry bodies to make sure the message is getting through to the public. CO poisoning is a threat in your home, on boats, in camping tents and in many other environments. Be vigilant, and we can stop these tragic deaths.”

Barry Sheerman MP, fellow co-Chair of the APPCOG, added: "We urge boat users to keep themselves safe from deadly CO gas. These tragedies remind us that engine exhaust fumes and those from heating, cooking and other combustion appliances can kill in minutes in an enclosed space like a boat cabin.

"There are a number of ways that boat users can keep safe. Understand where CO comes from. Know the signs of poisoning. Make sure you are installing, using and maintaining carbon-fuelled appliances according to instructions. Adequate ventilation is crucial. An audible CO alarm should be installed on any boat with a carbon-fuel burning appliance and I urge all boat owners who do not have an alarm fitted, to do so immediately.”

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas which can kill in minutes. The early symptoms of CO poisoning can be masked or mistaken for colds or flu. Victims might suffer headaches, become bad tempered; feel sick and dizzy; they might be tired and confused or have stomach pains and start throwing up. More serious affects can quickly develop such as loss of balance, difficulty breathing or controlling limbs and eventually unconsciousness.

Any carbon-fuel burning appliance or engine can cause CO – carbon fuels include diesel, petrol, natural gas, coal, wood and charcoal.

The Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) outlines some basic but vial points that if followed will help keep boat users safe from deadly CO gas. This includes: understanding what causes CO gas to build up on boats; recognising the symptoms of CO poisoning; following manufacturer’s instructions when fitting, maintaining and running carbon-fuelled appliances on board; ensuring adequate ventilation; and installing and regularly testing CO alarms that are compliant with the latest standard, BS EN 50291-2.