A man and a woman believed to be lovers were found dead in a single room at Gbegbeyise near Dansoman in Accra yesterday.
It is suspected that they were asphyxiated by the fumes from a generating set which was on a chair in their single room which served both as a living room and a bedroom.
Frank Arhin, a 32-year-old secondhand footwear dealer at Kantamanto in Accra, was found naked sitting with his head on his bed, while the woman, identified as Sandra Boateng, 30, was also lying prostrate on the bed without her clothes.
The generating set was on a chair next to the bed in the single room whose small window was covered with heavy curtains.
When the Daily Graphic went to the scene about 11 a.m. yesterday, people from the community had thronged the compound house to catch a glimpse of the bodies.
It had earlier been rumoured that the two were having sex in the night when the man’s penis got stuck in the woman’s genitals.
People who heard that news which had broken on an Accra radio station rushed to the place. Some were seen taking pictures and recording with their phones when the police moved the bodies, which were concealed in black and white body bags, into a waiting truck.
A brother of Arhin’s, Mr Bismark Kwaku Asiedu, who lives in the same house, said Arhin had bought a new generating set last Tuesday and decided to use it when there was power outage.
Mr Asiedu said he, Arhin and Sandra sat in the compound of the house conversing until about 12 midnight when they parted ways to go to bed, but Arhin decided to take the generating set into his room, since he was afraid thieves might steal it.
He said Arhin told him that he would need to power his standing fan because the room was too warm, “and that he would switch off the generating set after a while”.
Mr Asiedu said his brother told him that he (Arhin) would not use the generating set overnight, adding, “But I am sure he slept off and forgot to switch it off.”
“But this morning, Arhin, who wakes up early every day, was not seen getting ready for work. Later, we received calls from his colleagues at Kantamanto that he had not reported for work and all calls to his phones were not going through,” he said.
Arhin and Sandra’s whereabouts
According to Mr Asiedu, when checks from the other tenants confirmed that no one had seen neither Arhin nor Sandra that morning, “we tried knocking on the door and calling out their names to see if either of them would respond. But no one answered”.
When Arhin’s mobile phone was called, he said, it was heard ringing in his room, “and that was when we decided to break the door and find out if he was still sleeping”.
He said Arhin and Sandra were found dead about 10 a.m., after which a complaint was made to the Dansoman Police.
Some relatives of the deceased were seen wailing and asking what might have gone wrong, while other people tried to console them.
The Dansoman Divisional Police Commander, Chief Superintendent of Police Mr Antwi Tabi, confirmed the incident and said the two bodies had since been deposited at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital morgue for autopsy.
“We have ruled out foul play for the time being but we are waiting for the autopsy report. There were no external marks of assault on the two bodies and no sign of struggle. It is difficult to establish the cause of death now,” he said.
He urged the public not to take desperate measures while the power outages continued.
Medical and electrical engineering view
A medical practitioner, Dr Maxwell Onassis-Fiadjoe, told the Daily Graphic that the actual cause of death could only be determined after the autopsy, saying it was too early to draw conclusions.
“The autopsy report will indicate if their lungs are congested as a result of lack of oxygen and inhalation of poisonous gases. In a post-mortem report, there is the actual cause of death and other supporting causes, what we call ancillary causes,” he explained.
He explained that a generating set produced poisons gases which, when inhaled in an enclosed place over a period of time, could lead to death.
Additionally, he said, the exhaust produced when a generating set was on contained a complex mixture of hundreds of gases and fine particles commonly known as soot that contained more than 40 toxic air contaminants.
Some of the key air contaminants, he said, were benzine, arsenic, formaldehyde, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide.
“These are dangerous; once they come out, these gases are suspended in the air and in an enclosed place the person breathes them into the lungs,” he said.
That, Dr Onassis-Fiadjoe said, could lead to asphyxiation and respiratory emergencies, especially for people who had underling allergies, heart problems or lung problems such as asthma and emphysema which were not known to them.
“This can predispose to premature death if the needed emergency care is not obtained on time. The other worry is that if you are in a room and you are being engulfed or choked by gas, you should at least come out or open the windows of the room,” he added.
An electrical engineer, Mr Charles Amoako, said a generating set was not meant to be used in a room but rather in an open space.
“A generating set should be used in an open space with good ventilation because the fumes contain gases which are colourless, invincible and odourless,” he said.
In cases where the generating set was being used domestically, he said, it must be placed where the wind direction did not blow the fumes into the room.