Generator exhaust blamed for death of elderly couple in home near Bellingham

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EVERSON, Wash. – Last weekend’s stormy weather is likely to blame for two more deaths near Bellingham.

Police said a family member discovered an elderly couple -- 82-year-old Anthony Vermeulen, 82, and Marilyn Vermeulen, 71, of Everson -- dead inside their home on Central Road late Wednesday.

The Whatcom County Sheriff's Office said the family had not heard from them since Sunday or Monday.

Whatcom County Medical Examiner Gary Goldfogel said autopsies Thursday revealed the couple inhaled gas fumes, most likely carbon monoxide, from a portable generator. The time of death is unclear.

Officials said the power generator was likely placed too close to an open cellar door.

“The door was partially ajar and it allowed, we believe, the carbon monoxide gasses to get into the residence,” said Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo.

The strong windstorm last weekend tossed limbs and trees onto roadways all over Western Washington, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of people.

Police said the storms knocked out power to the Vermeulen home, too. Investigators did not locate carbon monoxide detectors inside their home.

Police say this case is a tragic reminder for anyone who might use a generator when powerful storms knock out power lines.

“Keep the generator away from the house and ... have a carbon monoxide detector,” said Elfo.

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