Child dies, another hospitalized after ingesting gasoline

Authorities investigating poisoning

Published On: May 06 2012 09:51:04 PM CDT   Updated On: May 08 2012 03:56:09 PM CDT
TOWN OF MEDINA, Wis. -

Dane County sheriff's deputies are investigating a 2-year-old girl's death after she and her 4-year-old brother ingested an unknown amount of gasoline on Sunday night.

The 4-year-old boy remains hospitalized Monday. His condition wasn't known Monday night.

Deputies, along with Madison firefighters and EMS, responded to residence in the 1100 block of Berlin Road in the Town of Medina at about 6:36 p.m. on Sunday.

The 2-year-old girl was transported to St. Mary’s in Sun Prairie, where she was declared dead. Her brother was transported by Med Flight helicopter to University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison.

Authorities said the children apparently climbed into a neighbor's car, where a gas can was located in the back. Investigators believe the two swallowed the gasoline.

"Their mother, and the other people in the building, found them in the back seat of a vehicle," said Elise Schaffer, spokeswoman for the Dane County Sheriff's Office.

The 34-year-old mother and her two children live in Portage, but were staying with a friend at the time of the incident.

Schaffer said investigators are looking at everything at this point to rule out any foul play.

"As in any death investigation, especially with small children like this, we're looking at many possibilities," Schaffer said.

The Sheriff's Office said that detectives worked throughout the night, talking with family members and neighbors. Deputies said they questioned the mother before she went to the hospital.

Neighbors recalled watching the scene unfold on Sunday night.

"It was horrible, just horrible," neighbor Kristi Duhr said, as she recounted the scene. "I knew (the girl) was in serious trouble, because they were pumping her for 45 minutes and not getting anything."

Medical professionals said a death like this is rare. They said children often drink things they're not supposed to because of curiosity but because of the taste of gas, it's unusual for children to ingest a deadly amount,

Dr. Brian Mamerow, of St. Mary's Emergency Services, said it's possible the gas made its way to the 2-year-old girl's lungs.

"Things like gasoline, that are quite volatile, can be aspirated into the lungs and cause damage to the lungs. It makes it difficult for oxygen to get to the lungs," Mamerow said.

Sheriff's officials said the Dane County medical examiner performed an autopsy on the girl Monday morning to learn more about the death, and if there were any other unusual circumstances that could have played a role. Results from the autopsy haven't yet been released.