Woman dies from carbon monoxide poisoning after using farm shower, inquest hears
A South Australian woman died from carbon monoxide poisoning after using a shower inside a cement rainwater tank-turned-bathroom fitted with a non-compliant gas hot water system, an inquest has heard.
- The family had been staying at the Reedy Creek farm to carry out sheep shearing
- Mr Kalali tells the inquest the heater was installed in the bathroom 22 years ago
- An expert says gas hot water systems need to be services every two years
Heather Diane Pearce, 47, died in January 2018 after her husband found her unconscious on the bathroom floor.
At the time, Ms Pearce and her family were staying at their farming property at Reedy Creek, south-east of Adelaide, to carry out sheep shearing.
The family were using a cement rainwater tank which had been converted into a bathroom.
In his opening address, counsel assisting the coroner Ahura Kalali said a hot water heater had been installed inside the bathroom 22 years prior and had never been serviced.
“Your Honour will hear that the hot water system installation was non-compliant … the hot water heater should not have been installed in the bathroom,” he said.
“There were several issues with the ventilation and a metal plate had been left on the heater inside and the rotary ventilator on the roof had ceased.”
“The combination caused a lethal build-up of carbon monoxide inside the bathroom.”
The court heard it was initially thought Ms Pearce had died from health issues, but a post-mortem revealed carbon monoxide toxicity.
“Ultimately I will submit to Your Honour that the cause of death was a direct result of the non-compliant hot water system installed on the inside wall of the bathroom unit,” Mr Kalali said.
In his evidence, senior gas inspector Ron Jessen from the Office of the Technical Regulator told the inquest the hot water heater never should have been installed inside the bathroom.
“No non-balanced flue-type heaters should be installed in bathrooms… because the heater needs to burn fresh air to operate,” he said.
Mr Jessen said gas hot water systems should be serviced at least every two years.
Deputy state coroner David Whittle was urged to issue a public warning about the dangers of non-compliant water heaters.