A Fort Worth, Texas, family is warning other parents about the dangers of heaters since their 17-month-old daughter died after their heater malfunctioned.
Keri and Larry Volmert put daughter Sammie to bed Feb. 28 and had no idea anything was wrong until the following morning, according to media reports.
“As soon as I got to the top of the stairs, it was very warm — I mean hot,” Larry told WFAA. “I ran to the room, opened her door, and found her passed away.”
Although the Volmerts had set their thermostat to 72 degrees, it rose overnight to more than 100.
“She did not make a noise at all,” Keri added. “We always heard her if she cried.”
Sammie’s cause of death was listed as hyperthermia: a significant increase in body temperature produced by an external source.
"Infants and young children are much more susceptible to heat-related injury, in that they have a very large body surface area for their weight," Dr. Corwin Warmink explained. "Their thermoregulation is much poorer than adults.'"
Hyperthermia is more common among children left in cars.
The couple said that Jackson, their 3-year-old son, had been sleeping downstairs with them for a year because he feared monsters were in his room. Doctors said he would also have likely died if he had been in his room upstairs.
Keri and Larry hope their experience serves as a warning to others.
While she read a lot about the potential dangers to newborns before giving birth, she had never heard of the danger of hyperthermia.
“I want people who have two-story homes to realize the danger, because we had never heard of this,” Keri said.
She has since discovered others who have gone through similar experiences, and learnt that a cheap temperature monitor could have made a difference.
Keri and Larry are considering legal action against the heater’s manufacturer. They say they had it installed in July 2014 and it was brand new.
“It had never done this before or shown any signs that it was not working properly,” Keri told the Weatherford Democrat. “That night was extremely mild temperatures. The heater should have never come on or the AC.”
The family has created a Facebook page to share their story and warn other parents of the potential risks of malfunctioning heaters. The page has been seen over 2 million times.