Katie Haines had been married for just two months when her life was cut tragically short in February 2010. She and her husband Richard had recently returned from their honeymoon and were settling into their new home.
After a long day at work as a press officer for Oxford University, Katie ran a bath. But as she went to get out of it she was overcome by an invisible cloud of the deadly gas. By the time Richard got home, she was dead.
In the wake of her death, Katie’s family and friends founded the Katie Haines Memorial Trust. This week they released a short film which urges householders to install potentially life-saving carbon monoxide (CO) detectors.
The hard-hitting advert, posted on Youtube and the trust’s website, follows a little girl as she helps her father to ‘childproof’ their house and car. They fit a smoke alarm, a first aid box, electric socket covers and a car seat. But the one thing they forget is a CO detector – which has tragic consequences.
“People think they are doing everything they can to keep their family safe but they don’t do anything about carbon monoxide
Avril Samuel, Katie’s mother
“People think they are doing everything they can to keep their family safe but they don’t do anything about carbon monoxide,” said Avril Samuel, Katie’s mother.
“You see adverts on TV about smoke alarms and even level crossings, but nothing about carbon dioxide. That’s why we did this.”
CO is an odourless, tasteless and colourless toxic gas produced by incomplete combustion of fossil fuels used in central heating systems, gas appliances and fires.
What made Katie’s death even more tragic, was that she and Richard had bought a carbon monoxide detector – but had not yet got round to fitting it. Battery operated, detectors are inexpensive and easy to fit.
Up to 50 people die and over 4,000 people are diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisioning in the UK each year, although the figure could be much higher.
Avril said: “We have sent out a poster to every emergency department in the country. It’s written by a doctor and tries to make them think about carbon monoxide as a cause because people often don’t think of it as a possibility because the symptoms are so similar to flu. They include dizziness, headaches and nausea. ”
“If a patient says they are suffering from flu-like symptoms, the doctor should be asking whether the symptoms go away when they leave their house.”
The family are particularly keen to target vulnerable groups like the elderly and students, but say the deadly gas affects everyone.
“Losing Katie was such a terrible thing at the happiest time of her life and we don’t want anybody else to go through what we have been through,” said Avril.
The film has been shown in the House of Commons to a meeting of representatives from the emergency services, the gas industry, other affected families and assembled MPs.
Barry Sheerman MP, who co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group, applauded Katie’s family for making the film and said: “The Katie Haines Memorial Trust is a passionate charity set up in the wake of these tragedies, which works tirelessly to bring about change in the industry. I hope this shocking new film will drive home the message to the public – have your boilers checked annually by a Gas Safe Registered engineer and fit a carbon monoxide alarm.”