Carbon monoxide poisoning is the suspected cause of death for a Genoa Township family found deceased in their home Thursday.
The township released the names of the four deceased family members on Friday morning: Richard Gabriel Reitter III, 50 years old; his wife, Jennifer Reitter, 49; and their children, Richard Gabriel Reitter IV, 15; Grace Reitter, 13. Also found dead inside the home were three dogs.
Genoa police and fire officers discovered the bodies Thursday afternoon in the family’s home at 6931 Lewis Center Road during a well-being check.
“Our community suffered a terrible loss,” said Genoa Twp. Police Chief Stephen Gammill at a subsequent press conference on Friday. “I’ve been a cop for 40 years, and anything like this has an impact.”
After police spoke to concerned family members on Thursday, they were in the process of performing a well-being check at the family’s home when an unresponsive family member was seen by police, and a forced entry was made into the home. There were high readings detected on a multi-gas monitor outside of the home, causing the Genoa Fire Department to enter in protective clothing.
Genoa Twp. Fire Deputy Chief Joseph Ponzi said the readings in the home were 1,000 parts per million (ppm) for carbon monoxide (CO), which was the maximum reading on the meter. Another meter found in excess of 1,200 ppm.
“If it’s above 30 parts per million, our personnel must be in protective gear,” Ponzi said, “and we recommend people leave their residence.”
Ponzi said in his 25-year career, the highest previous CO reading he had seen was 500-600 ppm in a small garage.
“Carbon monoxide (CO), an odorless, colorless gas, which can cause sudden illness and death, is produced any time a fossil fuel is burned,” states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
CO can build up in fumes when individuals burn fuel in vehicles, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces, the CDC site states.
Ponzi added generators used in the home are also a cause of CO poisoning.
In a statement issued by Genoa Township, “The 911 call from a relative indicated the family had complained of illness and no one had been able to contact them for three days.”
Ponzi said exposure to low levels of CO can result in flu-like symptoms.
“The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion,” the CDC states. “If you breathe in a lot of CO, it can make you pass out or kill you.”
Ponzi said as the amount of CO increases in an enclosed space, the exposure level decreases, and the faster poisoning can occur. Winter months are when most poisonings occur, due to using a gas oven, portable camp stove, generator or burning charcoal to heat inside the home.
The CDC states more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning, more than 4,000 are hospitalized, and more than 20,000 require emergency room visits.
“We cannot stress enough to have at least one carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home,” Ponzi said, in addition to working smoke alarms.
Gammill and Ponzi stressed that an investigation is ongoing, and an official cause of death has not yet been released by the Delaware County coroner. The home’s gas appliances will be examined. They also said that Genoa was being assisted by the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office.
The Reitters were “a great family,” Gammill said, and neighbors have said they were friendly and willing to help clear snow from their driveways.
The Olentangy Local School District released a statement via social media on Friday morning: “We are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of the Reitter family. Our district community is very close and this tragedy is undoubtedly felt by all. Additional counselors and support staff are at the schools that Gabe and Grace attended, and in the coming days, we will continue to provide assistance to those who are impacted by this tragedy. The Reitter family is in our thoughts and hearts.”
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.