Palatine, IL Asphyxiation, Nov 1919

Gas Tragedy In Palatine

Miss Harriet Aylard Is Taken Suddenly In The Sawyer Home By Odorless Gas

Miss HARRIET AYLARD, of Denver, Colo., who was visiting her sister, Miss Margaret Aylard, high school instructor in the Palatine Township high school, met her death in the bathroom of Mrs. Laura Sawyer home Sunday morning, Nov. 16 from monoxide gas poisoning. Her sister narrowly escaped the same fate and Mrs. Sawyer was likewise prostrated by this deadly, odorless gas. The presence of Mrs. Sawyer’s daughter, Mrs. Winnie Branigan in Palatine, is considered providential, as otherwise there might have been three deaths.

Miss Harriet, a young lady of 23 years, had arrived in Palatine only a week earlier. She secured employment in Chicago and expected to enter upon her duties the following morning. She was making her hoe with her sister in Palatine until her parents had permanently located in Illinois.

Entering the bathroom about 9 a.m., she was evidently overcome by the fumes within a few minutes and had passed away before the arrival of her sister, who had become alarmed at her long absence. The room and water tank were warmed by a gas coil heater. Miss Margaret turned it off at once and failing to revive her sister, called to Mrs. Sawyer and daughter. The latter two responded and within a few minutes Mrs. Branigan seeing that help was necessary ran to Mayor Taylor’s home and sent phone calls for Dr.’s Starck and Black. Returning home a few minutes later without having reached either, she was further alarmed by finding Miss Margaret Aylard unconscious. After a second trip to the phone, she returned with Mrs. C. D. Taylor and found her mother also lying on the floor unconscious. The two ladies managed to draw Mrs. Sawyer part way down the stairs. There was no smell of gas and none of the ladies suspected the cause of the trouble.

Dr. Starck and Mayor Taylor arrived on the scene soon afterwards and attempted to resuscitate the two ladies. Later they were joined by Dr. Black. In spite of the apparent demise of Miss Harriet every effort was made to “bring her to” but it proved to be too late. Miss Margaret soon showed signs of regaining consciousness and within two hours had her fullest faculties, but very ill. Mrs. Sawyer, owing to her removal to the stairway recovered from the effects of the poisoning within a short time.

News of the accident was a great shock to the community. Rumors were flying about that a second death might result and gloom settled down in nearly every household, especially in the homes of the high school pupils. By daily intercourse with this instructor they learned to love and admire her. Their sympathies went out to her in this hour of tragedy.

During her short stay in Palatine, Miss Harriet had won many friends and admirers, who felt deeply for the lone mother in Denver, from whose side the young lady had just come. Mr. Aylard and his son were reached in Chicago, after many fruitless telephone calls throughout the country. Delayed trains on account of lack of coal prevented the arrival of Mrs. Aylard here until Wednesday morning. Rev. Cutshall conducted a small service that evening in the Sawyer home which was filled with friends of the deceased and family. Thursday morning the sad journey was started homeward to Colorado.

Prior to the coroner’s inquest representatives of the Public Service Co. examined the heater and pronounced it in perfect condition. It had been operated four years and is of the same nature as many others in this community. Sad as was this death there is a warning in it that all citizens should heed. As coroner Peter Hoffman says, gas water heaters of any kind can not be safely placed in bath rooms. Monoxide gas has few lighting units, but is now made a part of the heating gas that is supplied through the gas mains. For that reason gas should not be burned in small rooms for heating purposes unless a vent pipe is supplied.

DuPage County Register, Bensenville, IL 21 Nov 1919