Volodya Ghahramanyan

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Tragic Deaths: Family of five seeking warmth instead succumbs to poisoning - 18 total dead from bad heating

By Gayane Mkrtchyan ArmeniaNow Reporter (used with permission)

All five members of the Ghahramanyan family were found dead at their home in Echmiadzin on December 14 because of an apparent gas leak.

Armen Melkonyan, senior aide to the prosecutor of Armavir region, says that the prosecutor’s office has instituted a criminal inquiry centered around the use of a gas burner fitted to a home-made furnace in the family’s apartment.

The Ghahramanyan family moved to Echmiadzin from Jrarat village in the region. Volodya, 34, worked in the cemetery as a stone mason. He and his wife, Lianna, 29 had three children – Amalia, aged nine, Armenak, seven, and David, who was three years old.

Yesterday the director of HayRusGazArd held a press conference in which he told that 18 people throughout Armenia have died already this winter as a result of gas leakage connected with poor quality heating. Among the latest dead was a couple discovered last week in Gyumri.

“When we opened the gate and entered the yard, the lights in the house were on. It was strange, because nobody had seen them since Sunday. We thought they’d gone to the village. It turned out that they’d been dead at their home for two days. Their beds were not made up, the children were in nightgowns,” says a neighbor, who could barely hide her distress.

The family, who struggled to make a living, heated their apartment by burning gas in a furnace intended for wood. To get the maximum warmth at minimum expense, Volodya placed a netlike partition inside the furnace pipe, so as to retain the heat as long as possible. As a result, the gas was not completely burned, causing a build up of poisonous carbon monoxide fumes in the apartment.

The gas company director warns about winter dangers “Today, many people are using this method by placing partitions inside the pipes. As a result, they play with human lives. Carbon monoxide gas can’t be felt in any way, can it?” says 40-year-old Armen Mkrtchyan from Echmiadzin.

The head of Echmiadzin’s gas-supply service Sashik Mkrtchyan says that they cannot give any explanation until they have the findings of an expert examination.

While an ordinary gas leak produces a clearly recognizable smell, carbon monoxide has no smell, taste or color. People succumb gradually until they slip into unconsciousness and death.

“We found Volodya near the door, clutching his baby, he must have felt what had happened and wanted to get outside, but he didn’t manage to do that. If only the door was open. He had very bright children,” said a neighbor, who didn’t want to say his name for fear of investigation.

Expert examinations by forensic medical and technical commissions have been ordered as part of the criminal investigation, which continues.