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Carbon Monoxide Death Aboard Boat In Minnesota

Seven-Year Old Child Dead

October 17, 2015
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It was October 11, 2015, and unusually warm weather had settled over the upper Midwest. The sunny Sunday likely made Sophia Baechler, age 7, and her family, along with many others on Lake Minnetonka, eager to enjoy what would likely be the last “boatable” weather of 2015.

Sophia Jordan Baechler dead of CO poisoning aboard a boat
Sophia Jordan Baechler, age 7, of Edina,MN, died Sunday, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015, from carbon monoxide poisoning aboard a boat.

But the day ended in tragedy instead.

According to a report from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, some ten minutes after she had gone belowdecks to rest, Sophia was found, “in distress.” Adults began performing CPR, first responders met the boat at the dock, and Sophia was rushed to the hospital without a pulse. She was pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center.

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Seven years old.

Just like that.

Preliminary investigation by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office indicate that the exhaust pipe, routed beneath a berth in the cabin, was perforated on its underside. The hole is, “consistent with animals chewing through the pipe,” according to the report.

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(NOTE: Many exhaust components are fiberglass, or made from stiff hose, and I surmise that one of these is what is being referred to as, “pipe,” in the report.)

Seven years old.

Just like that.

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Carbon monoxide is a silent killer aboard boats. Inspect your exhaust system regularly. Now is a great time, as you perform winterization chores. Visit your boat during winter storage if possible and look for signs of animal entry: muskrats, especially seem fond of exhaust systems.

In fact, muskrats are commonly known to enter the exhaust systems of boats when the boat is in service in the water. The exhaust port presents a snug cave. By chewing a hole through the exhaust, the animal gets access to the rest of the boat, and can escape the heat and fumes when the engines are running. Of course the hole allows deadly carbon monoxide gas into the boat, and also may cause the boat to sink.

I’ve long-stated that a rigorous maintenance schedule goes hand-in-hand with boating safety. Lets add inspecting for pest intrusion to our list of winter, spring and weekly in-season boating chores.

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Doing everything we can to prevent, and be aware of, the dangers created by carbon monoxide aboard boats is the best way we can honor the memory of Sophia Baechler.

Learn How You Can Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Aboard Your Boat

12 Tips for Preventing CO Poisoning

She was seven years old.

She died just like that.

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