Tragedy mars N’Eliya season holiday mood

Young couple die in each other’s arms from carbon monoxide poisoning after BBQ party
By Nadia Fazlulhaq and N’Eliya correspondent Shelton Hettiarachchi

April is Nuwara-Eliya season for many holiday-makers from around the country. “Little England” is a must for them at this time of year, and getting together with friends and relatives is part of the fun. This season, however, the cheery mood in the hill resort has been marred by tragedy.

Four holiday-makers, including a young couple engaged to be married, have died in the past week – the couple from carbon monoxide poisoning and the other two from extreme cold weather. The young couple, who had been enjoying a barbecue party with friends, were poisoned during the night by fumes from the barbecue stove they had brought indoors to keep their room warm.

Hundreds of holiday-makers head to the popular hill country resort in April every year. Pic by J. Weerasekera

Viraj Chinthaka, 24 years, a resident of Yakkala, and Amali Rajapaksa, 23, of Bonegala, arrived in Nuwara Eliya with their friends on April 16 and checked into a holiday house in Kalukelle. Viraj, who had brought along the barbecue equipment, suggested taking the stove to the couple’s room.

The post-mortem revealed that the couple had died a slow death, in each other’s arms, after inhaling carbon monoxide over several hours. The couple were to be married next year. “When a person inhales carbon monoxide, the gas gets into the haemoglobin cells that carry oxygen in the blood,” said Dr. Mrs. Jean Perera, senior lecturer in forensic medicine and toxicology at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo.

“This condition can be defined as a lack of oxygen in the blood cells, and it causes harmful effects to the brain.” Lethargy, drowsiness and lightheadedness are early symptoms of carbon monoxide inhalation, Dr. Perera told the Sunday Times. “If the inhalation continues, the person could go into a coma, and even die,” she said. “Barbecue stoves should be left outside immediately after use.

“Barbecue stoves should be left outside immediately after use. A hearth or cooker should be kept in a well-ventilated area.”– Dr. Mrs. Jean Perera, senior lecturer in forensic medicine and toxicology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo

A hearth or cooker should be kept in a well-ventilated area. LP Gas, used in gas cylinders, is considered non-toxic, but it is advisable to place the cooking equipment in a well-ventilated area, as gas cookers that are faulty or have not been properly cleaned can cause incomplete combustion, which produces carbon monoxide,” she said.

If you are cooking with gas or charcoal in an enclosed cooking area, and you experience symptoms associated with carbon monoxide inhalation, immediately open the windows and doors and go outside, the doctor advised.

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