A grieving mum has shared a heartbreaking warning about the dangers of boating after her nine-year-old son died suddenly during a day on the water.
Andrew Brady’s family had been enjoying a day of water sports at Lake Eufaula, in the US state of Oklahoma, on June 6 when he unknowingly became so severely poisoned that he fell from the boat.
Like many parents, his mother Cassandra Free was completely unaware that fumes from the boat’s exhaust emitted lethal doses of carbon monoxide, even when the vessel was in motion.
She has now spoken out about the tragedy after penning the “hardest post” of her life last month after her son died in what was suspected to be a drowning before it was confirmed to be carbon monoxide poisoning.
“We had no idea it was so dangerous. Prior to that we had been out doing our normal stuff – tubing, wakesurfing,” she told the US Today Show.
“Looking back, hindsight is 20/20. It was not unusual for our kids to be tired and cranky. You’re all out in the sun all day.”
With the boy suffering from headaches, weakness, vomiting and dizziness, his parents thought he had too much sun.
“Andy, he crawled onto the back of the boat and curled up in a ball,” she said.
“We were packing and cleaning up and the kids are groaning that they don’t feel good, just want to take a nap.
“My husband got Blake, my middle son, up. When he tried to get Andy, the boat just rocked and Andy rolled off. My husband, he was like: ‘What the heck?’”
Sadly when Andrew was retrieved from the water he could not be revived.
"His levels were 72 carboxyhemoglobin, which means 72 per cent of his blood could not carry oxygen to his brain. That resulted in brain death,” she told Today.
In her post last month, the mother warned signs that something wasn’t quite right on the afternoon of his death were similar to what would normally be expected after a day of high activity and lengthy sun exposure.
“He would’ve been tired. His head would’ve started to hurt. Sounds like too much sun after a long, physically draining day of wakeboarding, wake surfing, and tubing,” part of her lengthy Facebook post read.
No medicine could have saved boy
The mum said even if they were aware of what was happening to Andrew earlier, the volume of carbon monoxide in his blood had already caused so much damage that nothing would have saved him.
“Even if he would’ve gone immediately to the ER at that time, he still would’ve died. No medicine could’ve saved him at his levels. There was nothing that could’ve been done at this point,” she wrote.
His family’s only solace was the belief Andrew didn’t suffer prior to his sudden death.
“So we have a little peace. He did not suffer – he fell asleep. We couldn’t have done anything differently with the knowledge we had,” she said.
Andrew’s two brothers were also on the boat at the time, but they had been moving around while he stayed mostly in the same position, towards the back of the vessel.
“Backseat riders are especially vulnerable at low speeds and in long no-wake zones like the one we had to cross to return to the docks,” Ms Free said.
“I didn’t know this. No one I know knew this. It’s called open-air carbon monoxide poisoning ... Our little Andy, our Dude, was probably slowly dying that afternoon/evening and we didn’t know it.”
Mum calls for mandatory boat safety inspections
She added that between her husband’s 40 years of boating experience and her own 25 years, neither of them had ever heard of people dying of carbon monoxide poisoning from a boat’s exhaust.
The mum has now called on more responsibility to be taken by boat manufacturers and that annual safety inspections become mandatory.
“Don’t let Andy’s death be in vain. Educate yourself and educate your friends and family. I do not want anyone else to ever experience what I am going through,” she said.
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