Maria Chelyseva became an orphan at the age of 8 when four of her family members were killed by fumes from rotten potatoes.
The family, from Tatarstan, Russia, kept potatoes in their basement for the winter, but they were well past their best, the Siberian Times reported.
Maria’s father, mother, brother, and grandmother were killed, one by one, as they entered the cellar where the toxic fumes had built up.
Mikhail Chelyshev, 42, went into the basement and was not aware that the potatoes were rotten. When he failed to return, Anastasia, his wife, went looking for him and suffered the same fate.
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The couple’s, Georgy, 18, was the third victim, followed by Anastasia’s mother, Iraida, who called a neighbor for help but entered the cellar before assistance could arrive.
Iraida reportedly left the door open as she went in, which allowed the toxic fumes to escape. This prevented Maria from becoming the fifth victim.
“The poor girl found the bodies of the deceased,” a local investigator said, according to the Daily Mail.
Less than six months later, four workers were killed at a vegetable warehouse in Siberia when the owner allowed them to work with rotten potatoes.
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“There was a strong smell of spoiled tubers, which gives grounds to believe that the deaths were caused by a toxic substance released by rotting potatoes,” Russia’s Investigative Committee -- comparable to our FBI -- said in a statement on the case, the Siberian Times reported.
Potatoes contain glycoalkaloids, which are toxic compounds that increase with the age of the vegetable and are concentrated most under the skin. They can cause headaches, diarrhea, and, in severe cases, comas and death. The cooking of potatoes partly destroys the glycoalkaloids.