By CC Carmack
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In 2011, it is estimated that approximately 500 people died in the United States from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Five of those deaths happened in Clarksville, when on September 18, 2011 five people died in an RV at the Bikers Who Care annual Toy Run.
Thursday, at the executive session of the Clarksville City Council, a joint proclamation between the city and county was read declaring September 18 as Carbon Monoxide Awareness Day. Representative Joe Pitts read a similar proclamation from the State of Tennessee.
City Mayor Kim McMillan read the joint proclamation, becoming emotional at one point and choking back tears. She recognized the “dogged efforts” of Christine Wright, whose daughter and son-in-law, Katy and Jon Over, died in the accident.
Wright has previously worked with Representative Pitts to successfully pass state laws requiring working carbon monoxide detectors in all rental RVs, a measure that could have saved the lives of the “BWC 5”.
McMillan also recognized Skylar Hughes, a former student of Katy Over’s, who came up with the idea and began campaigning shortly after September 18, 2011 to raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Wright says the work isn’t done. She now hopes to see carbon monoxide detectors installed in every Tennessee school, including those in Clarksville-Montgomery County. Only two states in the nation, Maryland and Connecticut, require carbon monoxide detectors in every public and private school.
Wright, with the help of Representative Pitts and others, hopes to change that, possibly through grant funding, or a private-public partnership to cover the expense of the detectors and installation.
In recent years, more than 150 students and faculty have been sickened after carbon monoxide poisoning incidents at schools in Atlanta, Utah, and Pennsylvania.
All told, 13 children lost parents among the BWC 5. In addition to Katy and Jon Over, Jim Wall, Allison Bagwell, and Tim Stone died in the tragedy that can hopefully be prevented for others in the future through the continued efforts of the families, loved ones, and elected officials.