Painter found dead in La Vergne; Carbon monoxide may be to blame

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LA VERGNE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A painter was found dead Thursday morning at a home in La Vergne.

La Vergne police told News 2 the preliminary investigation indicates the man could have died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The victim was a sub-contractor for Main Street Renewal. The house on Harmony Lane had no power and the painter was using a gas generator.

Police reported it appears the man, believed to be in his mid 30s, had finished painting downstairs and had taken the generator upstairs to a back room and opened a window for ventilation.

He was found in a fetal position near a ladder next to the fireplace, his paint roller was still in the pan.

“The generator power was on; there was no gas in it,” La Vergne Police Sgt. William Timson said.

A worker with Main Street Renewal came to check to see if the painting had been finished and found the man unresponsive. He called 911 and began CPR on the victim.

Police also said the lease management company last spoke with the painter Wednesday and he apparently told them he would have the painting done by Thursday.

Police believe he may have been working through the night before being overcome by carbon monoxide.

His SUV was still parked in the driveway with the back hatch open.

Police told News 2 after the fire department ventilated the home the carbon monoxide levels still had a reading of 84 ppm, which causes nausea and dizziness.

News 2 learned the symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure get worse and a person could be dead within 2 hours if the levels are at 1,600 ppm. Death can occur within 30 minutes at a level of 3,200 ppm, and 20 minutes with exposure to 6,400 ppm.

There’s no word at this time what the level of exposure was before ventilation.

“It’s a tragic situation, probably could have been avoid with the properly safety precautions using the generator,” the police sergeant said.

Police have requested an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.

Authorities urge people using a generator to keep it outside and keep several key things in mind.

“If you are going to use a generator make sure it’s in a well ventilated area,” Timson said. “He did have a window open in front of the generator but just that one window being open and the wind blowing it was probably forcing everything back in the house.”

The Centers for Disease Control recommends keeping them at least 25 feet from the house because they release more carbon monoxide than an idling car.

Never operate a portable generator inside enclosed areas such as a crawlspace, garage or porch, and always keep them outside and away from windows and doors of any nearby building.

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