ST. PETERSBURG — Police and paramedics responded Saturday morning to an unusual suicide involving household chemicals and signs warning rescuers to stay away.
Although similar suicides have occurred elsewhere, "it's the first time we've encountered it in St. Petersburg," fire rescue Lt. Joel Granata said.
It started about 4:30 a.m., when Michael Kochanik, 23, called his girlfriend and said he was "mixing chemicals to create a poisonous gas to kill himself," St. Petersburg police spokesman Bill Proffitt said. Kochanik coughed and stopped talking during the call, Proffitt said.
The girlfriend called police, who responded to 5400 36th Ave. N, where Kochanik lived with his parents.
Police found Kochanik inside his parents' Nissan Altima, which was filled with a smoky gas and posted with five different signs that said such things as "Stay away" and "Contact Haz. Mat."
The officers "smelled a strong, pungent odor of gas leaking from the vehicle and backed away from it," police said.
Kochanik's mother woke up during the commotion and rushed toward the car, but she was intercepted by acting police Sgt. Kevin Sullivan. Sullivan himself was overcome by the fumes and was treated and released at a local hospital.
Granata said his agency determined on Saturday that the toxic gas in the car was created with a mixture of two household chemicals.
The fumes were so toxic that they created extra difficulties for the paramedics and police. Rescuers used a cleaning substance to decontaminate Kochanik's body before removing it. They were decontaminating the Nissan as well and planning to remove it.
Just last month, St. Petersburg Fire Rescue issued a training memo to make its staff aware of a suicide trend in Japan. Granata said in a statement that "young people use a lethal combination of common bathroom cleaning products to create a quick acting and painless poisonous gas."