A Mother’s Mission

Cassi Free lost her young son to carbon monoxide toxicity and wants boaters to be aware of its dangers

Cassi Free of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, didn’t know what happened when her 9-year-old son, Andy, crawled to the stern of their boat, lost consciousness and fell into the water.

Andy’s official cause of death was drowning, but what caused him to fall into the water was acute carbon monoxide toxicity and his mother wants boaters to know of its dangers. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headaches, nausea and dizziness. Andy’s two brothers had those symptoms, but they were admitted to the hospital and recovered.

According to a CDC and OSHA study there were more than 800 boating-related poisonings between 2000 and 2014, 140 of which resulted in death.

Boating slowly, idling, or back drafting can cause carbon monoxide to collect inside cabins or around the stern of the boat. That is where Andy had been sitting and where he got what is called open-air carbon monoxide toxicity. An autopsy showed that his carbon monoxide level was 72 percent.

To prevent another tragedy from occurring, Free is asking boat docks and marinas to post signs to raise awareness and that manufacturers give better recall notices.

“He was the kid that was going to grow up and change the world,” she said about Andy. “But we’d like to think that he’s still going to change the world.”

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