Preventing Tragedy: Vehicle inspections after fatal CO poisoning - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Preventing Tragedy: Vehicle inspections after fatal CO poisoning

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A teenager is dead after exhaust seeped back into his running car, which experts say is a tough problem to spot with terrible consequences.

Cole Haan died Monday of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning. The 18-year-old was a senior at Cascade High. Also in the car with him was Nicole Lucas, who was last reported in good condition.

Investigators initially pointed at a faulty exhaust system in Haan's car as the cause.

Jim Lind owns Jim Lind Service in Waterloo. He said problems with exhaust systems can be serious, and hard to spot. Still, it rarely gets to this point. He calls it a perfect storm of circumstances.

"Yeah, it's a sad situation," he said.

Lind pulls one or two a month. He see's connections go bad, and leak exhaust. That, combined with corrosion under the car, can let the poisonous gasses into a vehicle. He said the worst culprits -- older cars with large engines, just like Haan's Dodge Durango, which authorities now say was unfit to drive. Haan's car was idling at the time, which Lind says only compounds the problem, since engines release more pollutants at low RPMs.

To prevent tragedies like this, Lind recommends quarterly safety inspections -- or at a bare minimum, twice a year. He said his staff does the full inspection for free, including exhaust.

"One, check the exhaust system, make sure it's solid, and two, make sure it's not leaking exhaust fumes into the car," he said.

He also said a big safety measure -- preventing corrosion under the car by removing road salt with a simple car wash or hose.

And finally, one of the biggest steps to prevention -- being aware of any strange exhaust smells during startup.

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