Lytham couple with newborn baby warn others after "near death experience" on holiday

A Lytham couple and their 6-week-old baby nearly died from carbon monoxide poisoning whilst on holiday at the weekend.

By Matthew Calderbank
Thursday, 2nd September 2021, 9:43 am
Updated Friday, 3rd September 2021, 10:41 am

Amber Yates and husband James have decided to speak out after their "near death experience" whilst staying in their caravan on Sunday, August 29.

The pair had been enjoying their first holiday as a family with newborn Elliot and their spaniel Oakley when they were woken in the night by the shrill sound of their carbon monoxide alarm.

Within two minutes of waking, grabbing their baby and escaping the caravan, their carbon monoxide monitor was warning of dangerous CO levels over 200 - which can quickly lead to disorientation, unconsciousness and death.

Amber Yates with her 6-week-old baby Elliot in A&E after the family's carbon monoxide poisoning. Pic: Amber Yates

Following their traumatic experience, the young couple have shared their story to "help raise awareness and save some lives".

This is the Yates family's "near death experience" in their own words...

"In the early hours of yesterday morning, myself, my husband James, our 6-week-old baby Elliot and our spaniel Oakley had a near death experience.

"Please share our story far and wide to help raise awareness and save some lives.

James Yates was taken to A&E and put on oxygen after being exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning inside the family's caravan in the middle of the night. Pic: Amber Yates

"We travelled 200 miles with our caravan to meet a group of friends who we had not seen in a little while. We like to get out in our caravan every weekend we can but we had a small break with having a baby, so this was our first trip with Elliot and we were so excited to show him our happy place.

"Early hours of Sunday morning we were woken up just after 3am by our carbon monoxide detector alarming.

"The number on the alarm read 90 when it woke us up, but in the 2 minutes it took us to grab the baby and get out of the van, the monitor was reading over 200.

"We escaped the van and woke up our friends who, without hesitation took us in, once we had breathed in some fresh air we realised how unwell we felt.

The family believe that the carbon monoxide poison was due to an issue with their caravan fridge. Pic: Amber Yates

"Our chests were very tight and it was painful to breath. At the time I felt that I was able to drive us to hospital. Looking back we should have phoned an ambulance but I was running on adrenaline.

"James ran back into the van to grab some essentials such as the changing bag and milk for Elliot, and to turn off all of the gas appliances.

"On the drive in we were both beginning to feel worse, but thankfully we were only a 17-minute drive from the nearest A&E.

"When we got to hospital we were all taken into a family room on the children’s unit and it was here that James' condition seemed to worsen.

The Yates' are urging others to check their CO alarms - "£15 and a couple of AA’s is a small price to pay for the safety of your family," they said. Pic: Amber Yates

"He was taken up to the adult A&E for further tests and was put on oxygen. We now see that this was because he re-entered the caravan after we had escaped.

"Somehow, Elliot’s blood gas results were, as the doctor said, 'close' to the normal range and lower than James'.

"However we were told that with a carbon monoxide reading above 50 to expect symptoms, and a reading above 150 is life threatening, much lower numbers than those we were exposed too.

"We had unknowingly been travelling without batteries in our carbon monoxide detector for some while, without giving it much thought because it’s just one of those things that "happens to someone else".

"That morning we had gone to Wetherspoons for breakfast, which is unlike us, then we saw an Aldi where James popped in. Whilst in there, he remembered that Elliot's Ewan sheep soft toy had been used a lot recently, so he picked up some batteries for it, something we normally delay doing for ages because we always begrudge the price of them.

"Then in the afternoon, James, for some reason, thought to check the carbon monoxide detector to find it had no batteries in it.

"He put 3 AA batteries in the alarm - just 12 hours later it saved our lives."

A spokesperson for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said: "Amber has contacted us to tell us of her family’s recent traumatic experience of carbon monoxide poisoning in a caravan.

"We encourage anyone with a caravan or motorhome to make sure that they have a working carbon monoxide alarm as well as a working smoke alarm."

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Amber and James are now urging others to check their CO alarms and batteries regularly - "£15 and a couple of AA’s is a small price to pay for the safety of your family", they said.

"Please make sure you have working detectors in your caravan and your house," urged Amber.

"Forget to take your awning, chairs, head torch, aqua roll? It’s frustrating but it won’t kill you. Forget your carbon monoxide detector and it just might.

"Can you confidently say that you have one, located properly, with working batteries, in date? If not please go now and check.

"£15 and a couple of AA’s is a small price to pay for the safety of your family.

"Carbon monoxide detector checks should be an essential part of caravan services, or even a legal requirement. I want them to be available to buy at a reasonable price from all local supermarkets, camping shops and campsite shops.

"What can you do to encourage and remind others to check their carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order?

"We believe that the poison was due to an issue with our fridge (see picture). Please check and make sure there is no evidence of this in your caravan, or by your boiler."