You've likely seen the email photos of the party on Lake Havasu, but have you seen this Complaint? Los Angeles residents Louis Patin and Erica Honore, the parents of 10-year old Austin Tyler Patin, sued the City of Lake Havasu for the carbon monoxide poisoning of their son. According to the Complaint, Alan was wading in Bridgewater Channel when he passed out from carbon monoxide poisoning and drowned last month.
The Complaint accuses Lake Havasu City of refusing to take steps to prevent deadly carbon monoxide levels from idling power boats moored at the channel. Despite large tax revenues from marketing a "party-like atmosphere" at the channel, particularly through the sale of alcohol, the City has refused to address the alleged problem, the suit claims. The parents also allege City officials knew about the carbon monoxide hazard from several documented poisonings.
One tourist died over the 2002 Labor Day weekend, the couple claims. Despite this alleged knowledge, the parents argue fears of losing tourist revenue overrode concerns for public safety. The suit states that boats without catalytic converters emit 188 times more carbon monoxide than cars, and leave a layer of undetectable gas hovering over the water that can cause dizziness, headaches and unconsciousness, leading to death.
The suit is pending in Arizona, and while MIPTC isn't licensed there, it's pending in federal court and based on common law negligence claims. It's a novel theory, claiming that the City has a duty to prevent emissions of carbon monoxide in a water channel. There are safe levels set by the USEPA, but they're mostly for indoors. Safe CO levels outside are limited to 9 ppm, according to the USEPA, but that's not a point mentioned in the Complaint. Even the conventional wisdom on the USEPA website points to generators as the greatest culprit for outside exposure to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide: generators, not boats - despite the fact that the warning comes from the US Coast Guard.
The CDC, however, issued its first warning on boat carbon monoxide emissions in 2000, but again it centered on boat generators, not boat engines.
Even so, the National Institute of Science and Health says it's a probelm. Until boats either get catalytic converters, laws get passed to limit CO emissions from boats, put a life vest on. Be careful out there.