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Boy, 11, is Boston's first blizzard death

Boston Herald

February 09. 2013 9:43PM

An 11-year-old boy, keeping warm in his family car while shoveling with his dad, died of carbon monoxide poisoning Saturday, fire officials said.

The boy and his dad were shoveling out their car on Nazing Street off Blue Hill Avenue around 11:30 a.m. when the boy got into the vehicle to warm up.

"The boy was getting cold so they cleared out the passenger side and the boy got inside to stay warm," Boston fire spokesman Stephen MacDonald said.

The rear-end of the car was packed into a snowbank and the exhaust apparently backed up into the car, overcoming the boy.

Two neighbors performed CPR on the boy, whose name was not released, and were able to temporarily revive his breathing. Firefighters and paramedics continued CPR as the boy was transported to Boston Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead a short time ago, MacDonald said.

The boy's father also suffered a heart attack and was at BMC being treated.

Sheila Adams was riding out the storm at her daughter's home nearby when she heard someone screaming to call an ambulance.

She said the father was semi-conscious and asked about his son as soon as he started to come to.

"The first thing he said when he came through was 'where is my son?' and he just stated crying," Adams said.

Her daughter, Shakiena Phifer, performed CPR on the boy and is devastated by his death.

"She still beyond upset right now," Adams said. Adams said everyone did the best they could to try to stop the tragedy.

"The neighbor came together as a whole to do what they could do until help arrived," Adams said.

As the tragic news broke, state Fire Marshal Stephen Coan made a desperate plea to people digging out from this weekend's blizzard to make ventilation of their homes, businesses and cars their first priority.

Coan said many modern houses have wall-mounted outside vents for their furnaces which must be clear on the outside or the fumes from the heater will build up inside their home.

"Many houses are built with these kinds of vents that are 2 to 4 feet above the ground," he said. "With 5- to 7-foot drifts, they're covering them up."

Coan also warned people that barbeque grills and generators should only be used outside with plenty of ventilation to avoid fumes in the home that can poison people who live there.

"History is a good teacher here, after any kind of storm, whether it's a hurricane, snow storm or tornado, as the storm wears down you've got to get people to pay attention to carbon monoxide," he said.

Coan also cautioned people warming up their cars as they dig them out of high snow piles or running them to charge cell phones, should first clear their tail pipes to allow engine exhaust to vent into the air, otherwise it can find its way into the car's cabin where it will poison the atmosphere.

"You've got to have ventilation (for exhaust) if you're going to dig your car out. Clear out the exhaust vent first," Coan said.

He also urged people all over the area affected by the storm to dig out fire hydrants just in case firefighters need water in a hurry to fight a fire in your neighborhood.

"If there's a fire in your neighborhood we don't want to waste precious time looking for a fire hydrant," Coan. "I say, 'Adopt a fire hydrant.'"

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