AMARILLO, Texas — Four children died in a Texas panhandle home after being exposed to lethal gas unleashed through the accidental mixture of a pesticide and water.
Amarillo fire officials said they were called to the home early Monday morning by a friend of the family living there who had discovered them unresponsive.
Initially officials thought the episode was caused by carbon monoxide poisoning but quickly realized that a pesticide containing aluminum phosphate had recently been applied under the house.
When someone had sprayed water on it to wash it away, it triggered a deadly chemical reaction, releasing highly poisonous phosphine gas into the home. It was not immediately clear how long the family had been exposed.
Neighbors said Peter and Martha Balderas lived inside the home with their eight children, the Amarillo Globe-News reported. He worked in a construction, they said, while she stayed at home to raise the kids.
One child was declared dead at the scene and the other nine family members were rushed to area hospitals where three other children later died, Amarillo Fire Department Capt. Larry Davis said. The children ranged in ages between seven and 17.
“It’s a very lethal chemical,” Davis said. “It causes pulmonary edema, and basically the lungs fill up with fluid. We don’t know that that’s the cause of death so far, but that’s one of the more severe symptoms. It took us a long time to identify the chemicals.”
Police say the poisoning appears to be accidental and that no criminal intent had been determined.