News & Events

Coronial Inquest into latest Carbon Monoxide death begins

The urgent coronial inquest into the carbon monoxide poisoning of a Sonia Sofianopoulos in her public housing unit began in Melbourne on Monday.

At a directions hearing in March, Coroner Hawkins bought forward the inquest to this week. She said there was a risk that one or more of perhaps tens of thousands of similar open-flued gas heaters in houses and units in Victoria could cause another death.

Ms Sofianopoulos died of carbon monoxide poisoning in July 2017 in her unit, one of 16 public housing units in Greensborough. Fourteen of the units had the same Vulcan Heritage gas heater that poisoned Ms Sofianopoulos. All of them failed a test by the state regulator, Energy Safe Victoria, in November.

Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services is working to determine how many of the dangerous open-flued heaters are still in use in Victoria’s public housing. The Vulcan heritage console is one of five different types of heater installed in the state's stock of public housing. There is also an unknown number installed in privately owned homes.

Energy Safe Victoria is assisting the coroner with its investigation. Master Plumbers made a submission on behalf of its members in March and is a participant in the inquiry.

Open-flued heaters are of low risk inside ventilated or draughty homes but carry a potential danger of causing carbon monoxide poisoning when installed inside more modern buildings.  Carbon monoxide is odourless, tasteless and colourless.

A faulty gas heater also poisoned two Mooroopna boys, Chase and Tyler Robinson, in their rented home in 2010. Following their deaths, a coroner recommended inserting a clause into leases that obliges landlords to check or service gas appliances every two years.

Master Plumber will not make comment on the inquiry until it has concluded.  Master Plumbers is a strong supporter of regulated testing regime for gas appliances, particularly heaters. Master Plumbers also advocates for Continued Professional Development for its members and for the plumbing profession to ensure they remain committed, expert and professional and that public health is maintained.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

Energy Safe Victoria warns Victorians to stop using Vulcan Heritage or Pyrox Heritage heater, until it is tested by a qualified gasfitter. It urges residents to call the manufacturer, Climate Technologies, on 03 8795 2462 to arrange testing. If you live in DHHS housing, call 1800 148 426.

Master Plumbers provides continual professional development for Victorian plumbers.

Master Plumbers, in partnership with Energy Safe Victoria and the Victorian Building Authority, will present practical and up-to-date Carbon Monoxide testing courses for Victorian plumbers. This training course will provide the skills and knowledge to properly use carbon monoxide (CO) testing equipment and complete the practical procedure to test gas appliances for CO emissions. The course will cover the process you should follow to identify situations that could result in CO spillage within a residence. For more information and to register visit  https://www.plumber.com.au/files/Carbon_monoxide_%20Course%20Flyer_2018.pdf).