Police: Sewer gas may have killed KC woman

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(KANSAS CITY, Mo., AP) – A woman who died after apparently losing consciousness while working on her friend’s kitchen sink may be a rare victim of sewer gas asphyxiation, according to the Kansas City police.
Bernice Weaver, 44, was found lying unconscious on the kitchen floor Wednesday with the disassembled sink’s plumbing and tools nearby. The house also smelled strongly of sewer gas when officers arrived, said Sgt. Eric Dillenkoffer, who responded to the scene.
“It was like sticking your face into the holding tank of a Johnny on the Spot (portable toilet) and taking a deep breath,” Dillenkoffer said. “That’s how intense it was … It was obvious one of the sewer pipes was leaking.”
Weaver, who was homeless and had been living recently with a friend who rented the home, was taken to a hospital, where she was declared dead, The Kansas City Star reported. The Jackson County Medical Examiner’s office has not officially determined the cause of death.
A plumber told the landlord that the removal of the trap under the kitchen sink left an open sewer line into the house. The plumber also detected sewer gas coming from a basement floor drain.
Firefighters told police they were concerned the victim might have suffocated on the sewer gases. All of the home’s doors and windows were closed, which may have allowed the gas to accumulate in the home.
If the death is attributed to sewer gas, it would be among very few documented cases that have occurred inside a U.S. home, said Nick Gromicko, of Nederland, Colo., founder of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.
He said sewer gas contains a mix of gases, including methane and hydrogen sulfide, and when they diffuse into household air, they gradually displace oxygen and can suffocate occupants. But he also said that’s an “unlikely scenario.”