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5 found dead in Md. home, carbon monoxide poisoning suspected

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Investigators walk toward a Maryland home in which five bodies were found Tuesday. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

OXON HILL, Md. — Five people have been found dead of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at a home in a Washington suburb, authorities said Tuesday.

Two of the dead were found around 10:45 a.m. Tuesday by a relative who showed up at the home to check on their welfare, said Mark Brady, a fire department spokesman in Maryland’s Prince George’s County.

The other three were found soon after by firefighters who measured levels of carbon monoxide so high as to lead to death within mere hours, Brady said.

A dog also was removed from the home on oxygen support.

The victims, all adults who lived in the one-story brick home in the suburb of Oxon Hill, are a husband, a wife, her sister and two boarders. Neighbors had last seen them Monday evening. At least some of them were originally from El Salvador.

Officials identified the victims as: Oscar Chavez, 57; his wife, Sonia Chavez, 54; her sister, Nora N. Leiva, 57, of Chicago; Francisco Javier Gomez Segovia of Fairfax, Va., 33, and Nelson Enrique Landaverde Alas, 44.

Authorities said the investigation was centering on a broken exhaust pipe that showed signs of significant wear and tear, including holes that appeared capable of letting unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide seep back into the home instead of ventilating it back into the atmosphere.

A recent cold snap might have accounted for the furnace being operational, Brady said.

Firefighters detected extraordinarily high levels of carbon monoxide in the home, Brady added. A normal carbon monoxide reading is 0 to 5 parts per million and the reading taken at the home measured as high as 550 parts per million.

No carbon monoxide detector was found at the house, the only way to be alerted to the odorless gas.

“Someone exposed to CO at that high a level could succumb probably within a couple of hours,” Brady said.

The home, was built in 1955 and purchased by the woman in 2010. Oscar Chavez’s son told reporters that he found the bodies after arriving at the couple’s home Tuesday.

Source: Eric Tucker, Associated Press

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