Andrew Brady Free was one more fatality as the result of a little-known danger. Carbon monoxide dangers are something that many of us are aware of, as it relates to inhaling exhaust, specifically in enclosed spaces. However, this is not always the case, and this is certainly not Andy's story.
Carbon monoxide hangs out in the air. Andy left us at the loading/unloading dock, at the boat ramp, while on a boat that wasn't even running. So where did all of the carbon monoxide come from? It came as the result of slow speeds (our last activity had been wakesurfing and we had to cross an exceptionally long no-wake zone in order to return to the dock), a calm day (wind would have helped move the carbon monoxide accumulation), and a busy day for boaters (because so many people had been coming and going and their engines would've been running in the launch/loading/unloading area, carbon monoxide accumulations would have been higher). It was the perfect storm for the young boater. His body couldn't take it and he slowly passed away until his brain functioning slowed and he just fell asleep.
How did we not notice? Because if you know anything about water sports on hot summer days, you know that they are exhausting. If you know anything about being in the sun all day, you know that heat exhaustion and dehydration are not uncommon. And these things all present the same as carbon monoxide poisoning. You might have a headache. You might feel nauseous. Or you might be like Andy was, and you might feel really tired. To us, who knew nothing about open-air carbon monoxide poisoning and would have never considered that as the cause as we had been moving and our boat engine was off when we were no longer moving, Andy was a very tired little boy who had had a long day at the lake.
We have decades of experience on the lake and on boats. Our experience starts in the 1970-80's, before open-air carbon monoxide in open air became more widely known. We spent our weekends and even our weekdays on the lake- tubing, wakeboarding, and wakesurfing. We are not social boaters and we don't have "idle" time on the lake. Not to mention, we are mechanically inclined and educated when it comes to motors of all kinds.
The Center for Disease Control and the US Coast Guard have some great information on the dangers of carbon monoxide, as it relates to boating, on their websites. But many veteran boaters, and future boaters, don't know to look for this information. Because carbon monoxide is silent, invisible, odorless, and it hangs out in the open air for up to 4-6 hours on a calm day, this information needs to be proactively shared with the general public.
We shared a post that went viral, fulfilling one of Andy-Dude's dreams to become viral online, and our story has been shared all over the world, where we have found that we were not alone. The majority of people who have read, responded, and shared our story were unaware of this particular danger. Many other grieving parents, siblings, and children have contacted us to share their similar stories. We allowed the media to share our story and it has been on every major news network, on search engine homepages, retold in blogs, and God willing, "Andy's Law" will be proposed in the Oklahoma legislature this winter and his story will be a part of a Public Service Announcement in the spring, at the beginning of the next boating season in the United States. We are in the process of posting signs at public water access points that warn of the dangers of carbon monoxide.
Check back for more information to come.