Family sues for couple's deaths from carbon monoxide in Springfield

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KSPR) -- The family of a couple from Springfield who died in their home from carbon monoxide poisoning filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

Dwaine and Judith Crigger died in their home last July. The medical examiner found lethal levels of carbon monoxide in their systems.

Experts say the number one way to prevent this type of death is with a carbon monoxide smoke detector. It's also recommended to have a regular inspection of your hot water heater.

"Check them over once a year, flush them out, that's a good idea because sediment builds up in them from the calcium in the water," said David Brammell.

Brammell is the plumbing manager at Air Services Heating and Cooling, and All Service Plumbing in Springfield. Brammell says, during those annual inspections, they often find some of the same problems.

"The obstruction is a bird's nest, or a dirt dauber nest, or a tree falls on the roof and crushes the wind cap. If you're not venting correctly there's a little sensor down here," Brammell said.

Inspectors blame a faulty hot water heater for a carbon monoxide leak in July 2016 that killed the Criggers.

The lawsuit shows the Crigger family claims 11 points of negligence against another company: DeLong Plumbing, Heating and Air of Springfield. According to the lawsuit, DeLong was negligent in installing and maintaining the Criggers' hot water heater and venting system.

Among the allegations in the lawsuit: DeLong was negligent in the installation of the heater back in 2000, and in the regular inspections up through December 2015. The lawsuit claims DeLong failed to use screws at any joint or fitting of the vent connector, the connector was too short, the company failed to install proper supports, failed to obtain proper permits, and failed to detect and warn the Criggers of a problem.

KSPR tried to contact the family's attorney in Springfield, as well as DeLong Plumbing, Heating, and Air for comment, but we have not received return calls.

In the wrongful death lawsuit, the Crigger family requests a jury trial against DeLong Plumbing, Heating and Air for "reckless and willful misconduct" for the deaths of the Criggers.

Experts say other ways you can protect yourself and your family from carbon monoxide poisoning: don't use an oven to heat your home, and keep your vents and flues free of debris, which can block ventilation.

According to the CDC, about 430 people in the United States die every year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.