CRESTON, Iowa -- A Creston family is slowly getting answers as to how four of their loved ones died inside their condo while on vacation in Mexico.
Autopsy results show all four members of the Sharp family died due to a lack of oxygen, and Mexican authorities are looking at a boiler leak as the source of the toxic gas they inhaled. Officials say during an inspection there was a "high charge of gas" escaping the boiler.
Dr. Greggory Hicklin, a local pulmonary specialist, said a boiler can omit carbon monoxide, which can be a silent killer.
“Carbon monoxide looks a lot like oxygen, but it’s not,” said Dr. Hicklin. “So you breathe it in through your lungs and it goes to the red blood cells and it hooks to the red blood cells so they can't carry oxygen. And it hooks to the brain so the brain can't use oxygen, so people die from lack of oxygen."
Mexican authorities are still testing the boiler and have yet to identify the exact type of toxic gas that killed the Sharps.
An Iowa Poison Control expert said there could be other sources of toxic gas besides the boiler.
“The other thing that I though of in this situation when I heard about this family was hydrogen sulfide gas, which is sewer gas," said Tammy Noble of the Iowa Poison Control Center.
This is caused by a sewer that does not properly drain.
"And sewer gas has that rotten eggs odor, smell to it," Noble said.
Dr. Hicklin agrees, saying both carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide can be deadly. Across the board, a lack of oxygen results in similar symptoms.
“Your body burns up carbohydrates or energy and the lack of oxygen and you become athetotic, and you breathe even faster," said Dr. Hicklin.
Although Mexican authorities have not identified the type of deadly gas, Dr. Hicklin is not ruling out carbon monoxide.