SPRINGFIELD, Mich. (WOOD) — Calhoun County deputies say an 11-year-old girl is dead and two adults are in critical condition as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.
“It appears, at this time, to be a terrible accident,” Calhoun County Sheriff Matt Saxton said Friday morning.
Deputies were called to the scene in the 700 block of W. Michigan Avenue in Springfield just after 10:30 p.m. Thursday. It bears the sign of an upholstery shop, but turns out, the family was living there as well.
Randy Ford, who rents the building next door, called police to the scene. He said he lent the family a gas-powered generator on Thursday but late that night, he had a gut feeling something was wrong. When he stopped by the building, he could hear the generator running inside.
“I tried to get some response by knocking on the door and making a phone call. And they didn’t respond to me,” Ford told 24 Hour News 8 Friday.
That’s when Ford called police. Deputies eventually forced their way inside the building and found a 44-year-old man, his 41-year-old girlfriend, and her 11-year-old daughter all unresponsive inside.
They were rushed to various hospitals, but police say the 11-year-old died around 5 a.m. Friday morning. The adults were still in critical condition as of late Friday afternoon.
“It’s really sad. Carbon monoxide is really dangerous. And a small building… and like I said, it was really cold yesterday,” Ford said.
Ford said the family lost power to the upholstery shop on Wednesday, so he lent them the gas-powered generator so the man could keep working and get caught up on bills.
But he said he had no idea the family was living there too. Investigators said they were using the generator to power a kerosene heater during a cold night and that’s what caused a dangerous build-up of carbon monoxide.
“I warned him but…I can’t believe he put it inside and shut the door,” Ford said.
Samantha Gable also stopped by the scene Friday afternoon. She said she let the victims stay with her when they had nowhere else to go.
She’s stunned over the young girl’s death.
“My heart’s breaking. Really. My kids are really good friends with her, I took care of her for a while,” Gable told 24 Hour News 8.
Police haven’t yet released the victims’ names. Saxton said they were still trying to reach next of kin.
Police are still working to determine several factors in the case, including how long the family had been staying at the business and if they actually owned the building.
Ford said he’s thankful he showed up before the tragedy could claim more lives.
“I figured God told me to go look and see,” Ford said. “It could’ve been a lot worse.”
Investigators say the tragedy serves as a cautionary tale of unsafe heating.
“It is a concern. So we need to look out after our neighbors and those in less fortunate living conditions and try to assist and make sure people are being safe,” Saxton said.
Consumers Energy released the following statement to 24 Hour News 8 Friday afternoon:
“Consumers Energy is aware that this is an ongoing law enforcement investigation and we are cooperating fully with authorities. At this time we cannot comment further on this matter. Our sincerest condolences go out to the family and friends of those involved. We urge everyone to protect against the tragedy of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning by installing at least one CO detector that will alarm if dangerous levels of this odorless, tasteless and colorless gas are ever present. We also urge those who use generators to follow safe operating procedures and to keep them at least 25 feet away from your home, away from enclosed spaces such as buildings and garages. Learn more about carbon monoxide safety at ConsumersEnergy.com/safety. Customers needing assistance paying their energy bill are encouraged to contact us right away or visit ConsumersEnergy.com/assistance. There are many programs and services that can assist those in need.”