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Carbon monoxide from space heater blamed for 4 deaths at Wisconsin horse show


The trailer in which four people from Tomah, Wis., died of carbon monoxide poisoning is parked at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wis. Friday, Oct. 12, 2007. Carbon monoxide from a portable gas heater likely killed four people, including two children, as they slept in a combination camper-horse trailer ahead of a horse show

David Sandell / AP Enlarge

MADISON, Wis. Carbon monoxide from an old portable propane heater killed two children and their grandparents as they slept in a combination camper-horse trailer ahead of a horse show, authorities said today.

The four were discovered by other family members who came to wake them this morning around 7:30 a.m., just as the World Clydesdale show was starting at the adjacent Alliant Energy Center.

Dane County Coroner John Stanley identified the victims as DeVere Clay, 68, his wife Barbara, 57, and grandchildren Erin Briney, 10, and Hope Briney, 13.

Don Langille, a spokesman for Clydesdale Breeders of the U.S.A., said the four were longtime Clydesdale breeders and exhibitors who were well-known to everyone at the show.

The majority of exhibitors will be saddened because they know everybody here, everybody grieves and they all grieve together, Langille said.

Two men at the stable where the family s horses were being kept at the Madison show declined to comment today.

Police said a dangerously high level of carbon monoxide was detected in the trailer, which was blamed on the propane heater so old they could not detect the make or model.

The trailer, about 20 feet long, was parked in a parking lot with dozens of other horse trailers behind the Alliant center and only feet from a fenced-in horse-showing area.

The Clays normally slept in the barn where their horses are kept, but decided it was too cold on Thursday night and stayed in the trailer instead, said Calvin Larson, with Larsons Clydesdales of Ripon, who said that he has known the family for decades.

People showing horses in competitions often sleep in a trailer parked on the grounds, or in the stables with their horses, so they can be close by in case something goes wrong.

Only portable space heaters with a sensor that shuts off the heater should be used in case a dangerous level of carbon monoxide accumulates, said Patty Davis with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

In 2004, there were 162 deaths nationwide caused by carbon monoxide fumes where there was not a fire, she said. Of those, 34 involved room or space heaters, she said.

Ted Ballweg, sales and marketing director for the Alliant center, said the competition will proceed as planned. Between 10,000 and 15,000 people were expected to attend, he said.

Other exhibitors planned to help show the horses the family had brought, said Maureen Castagnasso of Meadowview Clydesdales. The horses were in stables and not the trailer overnight.

It s the first world competition for Clydesdale horses in the U.S. in more than 100 years, Ballweg said. The world competitions are typically held in Scotland or Canada, he said.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and

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