Carbon Monoxide Poisoning While Boating Is a Rare, But Hidden Danger

Ally Sidloski, 21, drowned in May after being exposed to toxic fumes near the boat's engine. There are ways to recognize the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.

One in 10 American households own a boat, and they’ll no doubt be getting a lot of use during the scorching heat this summer. But following a woman's death after being exposed to toxic exhaust fumes, there is renewed concern about carbon monoxide’s deadly consequences aboard boats.

In May, 21-year-old University of Cincinnati soccer player Ally Sidloski had been hanging on the ladder near the boat's engine, before she passed out, fell into the water and never resurfaced.

According to the coroner, Sidloski drowned after being exposed to toxic fumes.

There have been 46 carbon monoxide deaths on boats in the last decade, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. But experts Inside Edition spoke with say that number may be higher, because they can often be mistaken for drownings.

It’s a type of tragedy Doug and Krissy Taylor know all too well. 

“He went to sleep and that was it,” Doug said of his 7-year-old son, who he says fell overboard after inhaling too many exhaust fumes while sitting near the engine. 

“For an entire month we thought our son drowned, and we just knew there was no way,” Krissy said. 

Siblings Jessi and Cullen say their sister died under similar circumstances.

“It said she died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, and we were all just looking at each other, and I think I even said 'but she was outside,’” Jessi said.

The gas is odorless and invisible, so it's crucial you spot the warning signs, which include headaches, nausea and blurred vision, says John Adey, president of the American Boat and Yacht Council

“You need to know yourself. If you're starting to feel nauseous or a headache or things just don't feel right, then move position on the boat,” Adey said.

Using a special carbon monoxide detector, Adey showed us how carbon monoxide gas can build up, especially on the back of older boats with inboard engines that are less effective at diffusing it.

"Let's put it in the exhaust stream and see what happens. You can hear the detector going off. Here we have definite CO obviously. And if you move it up. And it's starting to dissipate very rapidly. Just a few steps and you can be in the clear zone, absolutely," Adey said.

While these kinds of incidents are rare, the Centers for Disease Control also recommends that if you are swimming near your boat, avoid the back area where engines vent their exhaust.

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