' Family warns motorists of carbon monoxide Poisonous gas nearly killed 2-year-old girl'

Chris Paschenko, The Decatur Daily News

After their daughter almost died from carbon monoxide poisoning, a Valley family wants summer vacationers to do more than kick automobile tires before they gas and go.
Paul and Vickie Womacks said a doctor told them they were fortunate their then 2-year-old daughter awoke after breathing what should have been a lethal dose of carbon monoxide from their leaking exhaust system on their 1990 Isuzu Imark.
"Tori had been sleeping and woke up having a seizure," Vickie Womacks said. "She'd never had a seizure before. It was a nightmare."
The Womackses took three medical detours en route to visit Ohio relatives. They said their daughter's first of three seizure episodes struck as they entered Tennessee, shortly after leaving their Trinity home.

"We stopped at a gas station and noticed a clinic across the street," Vickie Womacks said. "We had her checked out at the clinic, and she was fine."
Thinking the episode isolated, the Womackses continued their journey.
"About 20 minutes later her eyes rolled back into her head, and she started gritting her teeth," Paul Womacks said. "An ambulance carried us to Vanderbilt Hospital."
Doctors kept Tori overnight, and Paul and Vickie, who was pregnant with their second child Byron, stayed in a Nashville hotel room.
"The hospital did a CAT scan and all the tests they could think of," Paul Womacks said.
The next morning, the Womackses resumed their travels, making it to Elizabethtown, Ky., before Tori's seizures returned. Paul Womacks spoke with his brother, and the Ohio mechanic told him to check his exhaust system for leaks.
The Womackses said they compounded the problem, thinking their burning eyes and headaches were caused from allergies, so they kept their windows up and used the air conditioner.
"A piece of the tailpipe had fallen off," Paul Womacks said. "Doctors checked Tori for carbon monoxide poisoning, and said she had 17 percent in her body. They said that was enough to kill two adults."
Vickie said doctors found a 14-percent carbon monoxide concentration in her blood and 11 percent in Paul's.
"They put all three of us in a hyperbaric chamber for about 90 minutes and kept us overnight for observation," Vickie Womacks said. "They said most people just go to sleep and don't wake up."
Paul Womacks took their car to a repair shop the following morning. "I see it all the time," said Chuck Swain, owner of Decatur's Midas Muffler Shops since 1985. "Carbon monoxide doesn't have a smell, but a car is porous and the fumes go right up through the body and make people sick."
Swain said carbon monoxide poisoning is more of a problem in the winter and summer months when windows are raised, and the poisonous gas accumulates more on long trips.
"It goes from the trunk right into the back seat," Swain said. "And if you start getting sleepy, that's a sign. It's usually not a problem with newer cars, but older cars, especially if they've been wrecked, could have crimped pipes."
Swain said he doesn't charge for an exhaust inspection.
"If the car needs work, we'll give them an estimate," Swain said. "There's no obligation."
The Womackses, who now live in Tuscumbia, said they haven't suffered adverse effects from the trip, and that Tori hasn't had a subsequent seizure.


© 2004 The Decatur Daily News, Alabama, United States.

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Narcolepsy leads to fatal crash

'Charges against farmer dropped'
Charges against a Manakau farmer relating to an accident that left one person dead and another with serious injuries were dismissed in Levin District Court yesterday because of a medical condition which led to him falling asleep at the wheel of his car.

Andrew Norman Rutherford, 44, pleaded not guilty to causing the death of Lorraine Davis and bodily injury to Wilhelminus Joseph Bosman through the careless use of a motor vehicle. Two charges of overtaking in a careless manner were dismissed through lack of evidence.
Prosecutor, senior sergeant Evan Jennings said the Volkswagen car Mr Rutherford was driving failed to take a left-hand bend in the road and carried on across the road in a straight line colliding with an oncoming motorcycle.
The accident happened on May 10 at about 2.40pm on State Highway I near Otaki.
Lorraine Davis, the pillion passenger, was thrown from the bike and died. As a result of the accident her companion had his right arm amputated at the shoulder and lost his eyesight.
The defence counsel said Mr Rutherford suffered from a medical condition which led to him falling asleep at the wheel of his car and the subsequent accident.
Mr Rutherford said that he could not remember the details of the accident as he was injured himself and spent three days in Palmerston North Hospital.
He had a head wound with lacerations to the forehead and chin and suffered pre and post trauma amnesia.
Mr Rutherford said that he had milked his cows on the Sunday morning of the accident then gone to church. He said he always took his medication on Sunday morning to stop him falling asleep during the service,
Mr Rutherford said that he had suffered from excessive sleepiness ever since he could remember and had sought medical treatment for it seven years ago. A neurologist in Palmerston North diagnosed him as suffering from narcolepsy.
He was taking medication for the condition and believed it was under control. The defendant said he had never been told by a doctor of any dangers of driving with his condition.
The defendant said he was aware of his problem and had fallen asleep at the wheel of a tractor when he was younger. He said he tried not to drive alone and always pulled over to take a rest if he felt sleepy while driving. He always took medication if he knew he would be driving for longer than three quarters of an hour.
Mr Rutherford's wife said that on the afternoon of the accident she had phoned her husband asking him to drive to Waikanae in a van because her sister was too sick to be driven home in the car. Mrs Rutherford drove her sister home to Manakau in the van and Mr Rutherford drove the Volkswagen.
Mrs Rutherford was about six hours behind her husband when the accident happened.
A Wellington neurologist called for the defence said that after talking to Mr Rutherford about his medical problem he was quite certain the defendant had fallen asleep at the wheel of his car.
He said the defendant might not be suffering from narcolepsy, that it could be something else, as not all the necessary tests had been carried out, but confirmed the defendant suffered from excessive sleepiness.
Judge P. Toomey said falling asleep at the wheel and causing an accident without a medical explanation would be considered carelessness.
However, he said the defendant was suffering from a health problem which led to his falling asleep and causing the accident.
He said that there was no evidence the defendant had any warning he was getting sleepy and he was taking reasonable steps to control his problem.
The prosecution did not call any witnesses.

© 2005 Horowhenua Kapiti Chronicle

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' Man trapped in car after falling asleep at wheel '

Two serious crashes near Rotorua have police pleading with Bay of Plenty drivers to not make December another horrific month on the roads.
One driver is lucky to be alive after falling asleep at the wheel on State Highway 5, south of Waimangu Rd at Ngakuru. The man's car clipped an oncoming truck, causing the car to bounce off the truck and crash into a ditch. The crash happened around 10.50am yesterday.

The driver was trapped in the car, but was cut free. He was in a critical, but stable, condition when he was airlifted to Rotorua Hospital by the Tenon Rescue Helicopter.
Around the same time, a logging truck rolled on State Highway 5 north of Rotorua, 10km south of the Fitzgerald Glade.
The truck spilled its logs across the road, causing one lane to be closed to traffic for more than two hours.
The driver, who worked for a Whakatane firm, was trapped in the cab for 45 minutes before being cut free. He was treated for leg, arm and neck injuries by St John Ambulance staff before being taken to Waikato Hospital, in a serious condition, by the Westpac Waikato Air Ambulance.
Senior Sergeant Ed van den Broek of the Rotorua Police Strategic Traffic Unit said both crashes had the potential to cause fatalities. He said 12 people were killed on Bay of Plenty roads in December last year.
"That is a horrendous result. December is a silly month. People are in too much of a hurry and are not taking the proper rest stops and breaks. We want to make sure there are as many families as possible sitting around the dinner table at Christmas time and not morning the loss of a loved one.".....

©2005 Rotorua Daily Post.

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Stories Reported in New Zealand Newspapers

Highway Saviour

It took Fulton Hogan staff just 20 minutes to repair 30 metres of collapsed median barrier yesterday on the killer coastal highway north of wellington after a car collided with the barrier demolishing 24 posts. The driver walked away from what could have been a deadly accident had he crossed the centre line.

Senior Constable Keith Reay above right said the northbound car careered over the rumble strips before hitting the barrier. The posts collapsed as designed and the wire rope prevented the car from crossing the centre line The car was moderately damaged and undriveable but the driver escaped injury, Mr Reay said.
"The barrier was terrific it undoubtedly prevented a more serious accident, possibly a head on." It is the second time this year the 700 metre wire-rope barrier on the Centennial Highway, built last year after seven people died in three crashes has proved its worth.
In January a driver swiped three posts but kept driving.....

©2005 Fairfax New Zealand

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Trial barrier has already saved at least one life'

A trial rope barrier, installed along a 700 metre stretch of the coast road late last year, has already saved at least one life.
Transit NZ cameras showed a driver hit the barrier six weeks ago but carried on driving, apparently unhurt.
The Kapiti woman had fallen asleep at the wheel, regional councillor Chris Turner said.

Had the barrier not been there, she would have crossed the centreline and hit two oncoming cars, he said." She only survived because of the barrier. Even that short length of road has saved a life. I can't understand why it takes so long to do the analysis when the analysis has already proved the value of the system......

©2005 Fairfax New Zealand

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