The Polk County Sheriff's Office is investigating the death of a 7-year-old girl who died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator that was left operating inside the home.
The Sheriff's Office said deputies received a call about 11:45 a.m. Wednesday from the girl's mother, Shashunda Wilson, 41. She told a dispatcher she woke up dizzy inside her home, 5124 Dossey Road South in Lakeland.
She said her daughter, Terryn Wilson, was sleeping next to her and appeared to be dead.
Polk County Fire Rescue was sent to the home and took the mother to a local hospital to be treated for symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Wilson told deputies that the generator was running in the living room while she and her daughter slept in a bedroom with a fan on.
They lived in a duplex. Deputies determined that "there were very high and dangerous levels of carbon monoxide" in the adjoining home. No one was else was injured. An autopsy will be conducted.
"This is the first death our agency has worked related to Hurricane Irma," Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said in a statement. "Please, please follow safety instructions that we have stressed over and over so no other tragedies such as this one occur."
Gas-powered generators give off carbon monoxide, a deadly gas that is colorless and odorless, so there's no warning that someone is being poisoned. Operating a generator inside a home is akin to leaving the car running inside a enclosed garage.
Remember these tips for safely operating generators:
• Never use a generator in an enclosed area, whether it's a garage, a tent or even under a porch.
• It should always be operated outside, at least 20 feet or more from wherever people will be residing. The exhaust should also be pointed away for people.
• If possible, keep carbon monoxide detectors on hand to monitor for dangerous levels of the gas.