Carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected in the deaths of an elderly couple in western Pennsylvania, authorities said.
The bodies of Joseph and Freda Polinski, both 88, were found late Thursday night after a relative unable to contact them went to their North Huntingdon Township home, the Westmoreland County coroner’s office said.
Authorities said emergency responders confirmed carbon monoxide levels within the residence and fire department crews ventilated the home to allow investigators to process the scene. There was no immediate word on the source of the gas.
Toxicology tests are being done to confirm the cause of death, but that will take several weeks, the coroner's office said. The coroner's office and township police are investigating.
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Lauren Eckel, 40, who lives across the street, called the couple “genuinely nice." Joseph Polinski continued to cut his own grass and shoveled the walks in the winter, and each time he went outside to do yardwork, Freda would watch to make sure he was OK, Eckel said.
Roger Newman, 65, who lives next door, said the couple lived in the community for at least two decades and mostly kept to themselves.
“I was shocked when I heard,” Newman said.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas found in fumes produced by furnaces, stoves, lanterns, and gas ranges, or by burning charcoal and wood. The gas can build up in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces, poisoning people and animals.
Each year, about 50,000 people are taken to hospital emergency departments due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, and more than 400 deaths are attributed to such exposure annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.