Grieving Parents Warn a Faulty Refrigerator Caused Their Child's Death


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Sarah Klebs had no idea that something was seriously wrong with her kids when her daughter Caroline started complaining of a headache. The mom from Alaska gave the 8-year-old Advil and wasn't too alarmed when both she and her 10-year-old, Gavin, started throwing up a few hours later. She simply thought her kids caught the flu. However, Gavin died shortly after.

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Despite their heartbreak, Sarah and her husband Matt are speaking out about their child's recent death to warn parents about what they wish they had known. The family had been staying at their small cabin, and after Gavin's August 20 death, investigators discovered that a refrigerator malfunction caused it to leak carbon monoxide into the family's vacation cottage.

"How would you know?" Sarah told Alaska Dispatch News. "Prior to this, I never would have thought about it."

child dies refrigerator leaks carbon monoxide
Sarah Mikos Klebs/Facebook

The colorless and odorless substance leaked into the lakeside cabin as the family slept, and because they didn't have a carbon monoxide detector installed yet, they had no idea there was an issue with the propane-powered refrigerator. Matt is a mechanical contractor, and given his profession, he is still in disbelief that this could happen to his own family without his knowing. "I'm in the business to keep this from happening," he said. 

Matt was out of town for work and their third child was staying at a friend's house when the leaking carbon monoxide started affecting Sarah, Gavin, and Caroline. As the symptoms set in, Sarah missed picking her oldest up from his friend's house, so the friend's concerned family drove out to the cabin to check on them. Although Sarah doesn't remember everything that happened, as confusion is a common side effect of carbon monoxide poisoning, she knows that she couldn't stand and Caroline was unconscious by the time they were found.   

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Gavin was also unconscious on the couch, just feet away from his mom and sister, but he couldn't be revived. Sarah and Caroline were flown to Seattle for emergency treatment. The family has started a GoFundMe to help with their expenses.

"You could say, 'Well what if a few things were different, it would have played out differently,'" Matt said. "I feel like it was his time, and it wasn't theirs, and [God] aligned to take him and take him peacefully and that's what we're accepting."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often described as "flu-like" and include headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. It warns that people who are sleeping during leaks often die before ever having any symptoms and that more than 20,000 Americans are sent to the emergency room each year due to carbon monoxide.

The best way to protect your family is to ensure that every place you stay has a working carbon monoxide detector and to be aware of the symptoms. 

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