A Heater That Killed A Grandmother, Still In Many Aussie Homes
Her family hopes the findings can help save others.
A coroner has called for the phase out of all open-flued gas heaters following the death of a Australian grandmother.
Sonia Sofianopoulos died from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by the wall heater inside her Department of Health and Human Services home.
She collapsed in her Melbourne home onto the bathroom floor in July 2017 and her body was discovered by her daughter and son-in-law the next day.
The gas is a silent killer undetectable by sight, taste or smell. Depending on a person’s level of exposure, symptoms can range from headaches to confusion and nausea.
Coroner Jacqui Hawkins found the heater inside Ms Sofianopoulos’ unit was leaking carbon monoxide due to a combination of negative pressure and a lack of ventilation.
But the Coroner stopped short of blaming anyone for the tragedy, despite finding that the last person to service the heater, Lindsay Haysom, in 2015 was an “unreliable witness.”
Haysom couldn’t say whether he had tested it in accordance with the guidelines.
But Coroner Hawkins also found DHHS wasn’t at fault.
Outside court, Ms Sofianopoulos’ daughter Eleni Kontogiorgis, told Ten Eyewitness News the death of her mother had been tough.
“I don’t know how to describe the loss... it’s just been heartbreaking,” Ms Kontogiorgis said.
“My Mum was a very lively, happy, outgoing person.”
Yet she said she accept the Coroner’s findings and hopes they will save lives.
“We’re just hoping that these changes become mandatory, and part of legislation so hopefully we will never see anything like this again.”
“I think that certain things could have been done, but that’s all now in hindsight so hopefully looking forward, things will change.”
Peter Daly from the Master Plumbers Association told Ten Eyewitness News it also supports the Coroner’s push to have the heaters removed.
“They are inherently unsafe compared to more modern-type heaters,” Mr Daly said.
“Home design has changed, there’s much less ventilation in homes nowadays and the heaters have had their day.. Let’s move on to more efficient and safer heaters.”
The Coroner was unable to explain why Ms Sofianopoulos died on the day she did as opposed to any other day.
And she told her family “There is nothing I can say that will relieve the heartache, pain and grief you have endured...”
Energy Safe Victoria estimates there are hundreds of thousands of open-flue gas heaters in homes across Australia.
Most are in Victoria, which is still reeling from the deaths of Chase (8) and Tyler (6) Robinson in Shepparton in 2010.
The little boys died in their sleep from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by the family’s wall heater.