UNIVERSITY PLACE, WA (KOMO/CNN) – A 77-year-old woman died and her daughter-in-law remains in critical condition after four coolers of dry ice in the back of their loved one’s car leaked carbon dioxide fumes.
Investigators said the wife of a Washington ice cream salesman borrowed her husband’s car Friday to take his 77-year-old mother home.
Hours later, the man found both women and the car on the side of the road, just blocks from his home.
Sadly, the 77-year-old was dead. The man’s wife is alive but in critical condition.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said the ice cream salesman kept coolers of dry ice in the back of his car.
"Somehow or another, the fumes escaped from the coolers,” Detective Ed Troyer said. "Possibly because it was so hot outside, and he had a newer car, which probably had better seals and less ventilation. It was a combination of things that went terribly wrong."
Dry ice is often used when shipping perishable goods.
It becomes a gas when exposed to open air, and the fumes can be dangerous in closed-off spaces, according to the University of Washington Department of Environmental Health and Safety.
The medical examiner said the man’s mother likely died of suffocation from the carbon dioxide fumes.
The substance is typically carefully packaged with warning labels.
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