Inquest into Yukon carbon monoxide deaths focuses on chimney

Evidence at a coroner’s inquest in Whitehorse is starting to zero in on a chimney as a factor in the death of five people last winter.

Preliminary findings from the Coroner’s Office show Bradley and Valerie Rusk, their children Gabriel and Rebekah, and family friend Donald McNamee, who rented a room in the home, all died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The week-long inquest has been called to find out more about what led to the five deaths.

A contractor who repaired the chimney more than 20 years ago testified that he put a new metal liner into the brick chimney because a ceramic liner was crumbling and blocking the pipe. But investigators looking into the deaths couldn't find any trace of the metal liner.

The contractor said that even a metal chimney liner will deteriorate over time, but he said he would expect to see at least pieces of it still in place.

John Whitney wasn’t able to explain why there appeared to be no trace of the metal liner.

Copies of a City of Whitehorse building permit show the chimney was inspected after the liner was put in, but retired city inspector Stan Dick said he didn't see a liner, and essentially took the contractor’s word that it had been installed.

More experts are expected to testify today about the state of the chimney and the boiler system in the rented home.

The inquest heard already that Valerie Rusk, the mother who died, had sought help from a doctor about why she and her family were having headaches. The inquest also heard that veteran firefighters described the high carbon monoxide levels in the house as something they had never seen before.

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