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We nearly died from gas fumes at villa
Published 30/06/14



A COUPLE endured a holiday from hell when they were struck down by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Gemma French and Darren Blanche became seriously ill after the gas leaked from a faulty fridge at a villa they were renting in Lanzarote.

The couple, from Christmas Common, say they are lucky to be alive and are raising awareness of the risks.

They are urging people to fit carbon monoxide alarms in their homes and pack a spare one when they go on holiday.

Miss French, 34, and Mr Blanche, 44, paid about 1,000 for the week-long break in February this year.


Their villa was privately owned by a Spanish couple who had advertised it on an online message board.

Its electricity came from solar panels and many of its appliances, including the fridge, were powered by gas.

When they awoke after their first night, both had headaches so they took painkillers.

They had used a gas heater the night before so they switched it off and took it out of the house, thinking it might be the cause.

However, Mr Blanche’s condition continued to worsen and he became too weak to get out of bed.

Miss French, who was also still unwell, took him outside and laid him on a sun lounger.

She then went back inside and realised she could smell gas around the fridge.

Although carbon monoxide itself has no odour, she feared it was faulty so called the villa’s owners, who sent an engineer.

The engineer said the chimney was blocked with soot, a sign that carbon monoxide is being produced, and that he had cleared it.

The couple slept in the villa that night and woke again with headaches the following morning.

They spent most of that day outdoors and their symptoms gradually cleared up as time wore on.

But after another night’s sleep, they again woke up feeling nauseous and dizzy.

Mr Blanche felt especially bad and was barely able to stand so his partner dragged him outside.

Shortly after laying him down, she vomited then collapsed and briefly passed out.

Miss French, an ecological consultant who used to live in Turville, said: “I had this sensation of blood pumping loudly in my ears.

“I suddenly felt dreadful; dizzy, nauseous and unable to move, at which point I started to panic, stumbling and shouting.

“That was the point where it dawned on me that something was seriously wrong.

“We’d just thought it was a normal headache but then we started to get very confused and didn’t really know what was going on.”

After a few minutes outside, the pair began to improve.

They again called the owners, who denied there was anything wrong at the property but offered them a room at a hotel several miles away which they owned.

Still delirious, the couple packed their belongings and drove there.

They still felt ill when they arrived so they drove straight on to a clinic and said they had been poisoned.

Doctors put them on oxygen masks immediately and called an ambulance to take them to a nearby hospital.

Miss French said: “We still couldn’t walk properly and were very shaky so driving probably wasn’t a good idea, but we were still confused.

“As soon as we explained what had happened, two doctors and a nurse rushed right out of a meeting to treat us.”

The couple were on the ward for five hours before they were discharged.

They did not have blood tests until the end of their stay, by which time there was no carbon monoxide in their systems.

However, doctors said it was the most likely culprit.

They could not afford to come home early so they spent the rest of their week at the hotel.

Miss French said: “That was meant to be our one relaxing break of the year but it certainly didn’t turn out that way.

“We tried to enjoy the rest of our time and see a few places but it was tough staying in the owners’ hotel after they’d been so dismissive.

“They did finally admit that the fridge was faulty and sent it off for repair. I just can’t believe they wouldn’t take it seriously at the time.

“It was such a horrible, frightening experience and I really thought Darren was going to die at one point.

“It goes to show you can’t guarantee the safety of where you’re staying when you’re abroad and that’s why I’m raising awareness.

“My family and I didn’t have carbon monoxide alarms before this but now we all do because it doesn’t just happen on holiday.

“However, with the holiday season approaching, I’d urge everyone to make sure they take a carbon monoxide alarm with them.”

The couple considered legal action to get a refund but were told their case was weak because the villa owner is not registered with ABTA.

It would therefore have to be tried under Spanish law.

Mr Blanche, a self-employed handyman who works in the Henley area, said: “Aside from being seriously ill, the worst thing was the owners’ response.

“Even when they admitted the fridge was faulty, they wouldn’t admit that we had carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Gemma was sat on a sun lounger crying and being sick and they just accused her of being pregnant.

“They wouldn’t do anything at all. There was no sympathy, no offer of help at the time and no offer to give our money back.”

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless substance that is given off when natural gas burns in a poorly ventilated space.

It displaces oxygen in the blood, causing sickness, delirium and eventually death as the body’s cells are starved of oxygen.

Black soot marks or excessive condensation around gas appliances are common signs that it is being produced.

Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, dizziness, breathlessness, headaches, collapse and loss of consciousness.



ENDS



with pics 1405744 and 745

A COUPLE have told how they nearly died on a holiday after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning.

Handyman Darren Blanche and his partner Gemma French became seriously ill after the gas leaked from a faulty fridge at the villa they were renting in Lanzarote.

The couple, from Christmas Common, say they are lucky to be alive and have urged other people to fit carbon monoxide alarms in their houses and pack a spare one when they go on holiday.

Mr Blanche, 44, and Miss French, 34, paid about 1,000 for the week-long break in February.

Their villa was privately owned by a Spanish couple who had advertised it on an online message board.

Its electricity supply came from solar panels and many of its appliances, including the fridge, were powered by gas.

When the couple awoke after their first night, both had headaches so they took painkillers. They had used a gas heater the night before so they switched it off and took it out of the house, thinking it might be the cause. However, Mr Blanche’s condition continued to worsen and he became too weak to get out of bed.

Miss French, who was also still unwell, took him outside and laid him on a sun lounger. She then went back inside and realised she could smell gas around the fridge.

Although carbon monoxide itself has no smell, she feared it was faulty so called the villa’s owners, who sent an engineer.

The repairman said the chimney was blocked with soot, a common sign that the gas is being produced, and that he had cleared it.

The couple slept in the villa that night and woke again with headaches the following morning. They then spent most of that day outdoors and their symptoms cleared up gradually.

But after another night’s sleep, they again woke up feeling nauseous and dizzy. Mr Blanche felt especially bad and was barely able to stand so his partner dragged him outside.

Shortly after laying him down, she vomited then collapsed and briefly passed out.

Miss French, an ecological consultant, said: “I had this sensation of blood pumping loudly in my ears. I suddenly felt dreadful; dizzy, nauseous and unable to move, at which point I started to panic, stumbling and shouting.

“That was the point where it dawned on me that something was seriously wrong. We’d just thought it was a normal headache but then we started to get very confused and didn’t really know what was going on.”

After some time outside, the pair began to improve. They again called the owners, who denied there was anything wrong at the property but offered them a room at a hotel which they owned. The couple drove there and then went to a clinic and said they had been poisoned.

Doctors gave them oxygen and called an ambulance to take them to hospital.

Miss French said: “As soon as we explained what had happened, two doctors and a nurse rushed right out of a meeting to treat us.”

The doctors said the most likely cause was carbon monoxide poisoning and the couple were discharged after five hours. They spent the rest of their week at the hotel.

Miss French said: “That was meant to be our one relaxing break of the year but it certainly didn’t turn out that way. We tried to enjoy the rest of our time and see a few places but it was tough staying in the owners’ hotel after they’d been so dismissive. They did finally admit that the fridge was faulty and sent it off for repair. I just can’t believe they wouldn’t take it seriously at the time.

“It was such a horrible, frightening experience and at one point I really thought Darren was going to die.

“It goes to show you can’t guarantee the safety of where you’re staying when you’re abroad and that’s why I’m raising awareness.

“My family and I didn’t have carbon monoxide alarms before this but now we all do because it doesn’t just happen on holiday. However, with the holiday season approaching, I’d urge everyone to make sure they take a carbon monoxide alarm with them.”

The couple considered legal action to obtain a refund but were told their case was weak because the villa owners are not registered with ABTA.

Mr Blanche said: “Aside from being seriously ill, the worst thing was the owners’ response. They wouldn’t do anything at all.

“Even when they admitted the fridge was faulty, they wouldn’t admit that we had carbon monoxide poisoning. There was no sympathy, no offer of help at the time and no offer to give our money back.”

Published 30/06/14

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