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Burnaby woman bravely shares tragic story to warn about carbon monoxide

Jessica Taschner and her late partner, Steve LaTorre, were accidentally poisoned by carbon monoxide while visiting a family cabin in 2020.
Jessica Taschner Steve LaTorre
Jessica Taschner and her late partner, Steve LaTorre, in the last photo they took together when at the boat launch at Ruby Lake on June 25, 2020.

Please take a moment and look at the photo above.

The photo is of Burnaby’s Jessica Taschner and her late partner, Steve LaTorre, in the last photo they ever took together.

They never took another photo because both were accidentally poisoned by carbon monoxide on June 27, 2020 while visiting a family cabin on Ruby Lake on the Sunshine Coast.

“The couple, who were both 29 years old, were found unresponsive after telling friends and family they felt ill and had been vomiting,” reads a story by Coast Reporter, a sister paper of the Burnaby NOW. “They had arrived only two days before Taschner was flown to the hospital in critical condition. LaTorre died at the scene.”

Taschner was a nurse at the time at BC Children’s Hospital, but according to the story, she didn’t know the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Now she is speaking out about the dangers posed by the odourless, colourless and tasteless gas.

“I just don’t want what happened to me to happen to someone else and have to go through learning how to do everything again, while grieving my life partner,” Taschner said. “I don’t think anybody should lose someone they love over something that is so preventable.”

It’s all just so heartbreaking to read. And, as Taschner says, so preventable.

After reading about Taschner and her brave efforts to raise awareness by sharing such a painful story, I immediately called my daughter who was planning a trip to a cabin. I passed along all of the information so she would check the situation at this resort area.

I’m thankful to Taschner for speaking out.

“I still thought we had food poisoning but then that’s what carbon monoxide does to you, it makes you not think rationally,” she said. “So, I don’t think my critical thinking skills were there at that point,” she said. 

Two months after the incident, the report from Technical Safety BC’s investigation pointed to an improperly installed propane refrigerator as the main source of the carbon monoxide. It had been installed in 2010 and was not certified for use in Canada, according to the report.

The cabin was built in the 1950s and can only be accessed by water or a rough dirt road. It did not have a carbon monoxide detector. 

Taschner said the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be so vague that they can appear to be the flu, food poisoning or a hangover. Common symptoms people should be aware of are nausea, headache, confusion, dizziness, chest pains, weakness and vomiting. 

Technical Safety BC recommends checking common sources of carbon monoxide, such as fuel-burning appliances and exhaust from recreational vehicles. Carbon monoxide detectors can be brought with you, if you’re unsure if there is one on location. They can be battery operated and portable. 

If you have concerns about someone’s health and safety, you should wake them up to assess their condition. If you believe you or someone else are being poisoned by carbon monoxide, turn the appliances off, get everyone (including pets) outside, call 911 and seek immediate medical attention.

  • With reporting by Keili Bartlett, Coast Reporter