MASSILLON, Ohio — Afton Taylor died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning on a routine boat trip in 2019. Now, his parents want to warn others.
Water is the backdrop of some of Krissy and Doug Taylor’s best memories.
Doug grew up on his father’s boat and, as tradition, began taking his kids on that same boat when they were young, too.
“It’s a boat I’d been on for 20 years. We are very seasoned boaters,” he said.
Doug is a North Canton firefighter. He said he always took proper safety precautions on the boat, especially with his children.
June 30, 2019, started out like any other trip to Salt Fork State Park. The couple brought their 7-year-old son Afton and his younger brother out on the boat.
“We were just boating as we normally do,” said Krissy.
“It was one of the best days we’ve ever had. He didn’t even fight with his brother that day,” said Doug.
That day turned into a tragedy as they were getting ready to leave.
“We’ve been going through no-wake zones with dangling feet in the water for as long as I can remember,” said Doug Taylor.
Afton was sitting in the back of the boat as it was moving at a slow speed in the no-wake zone.
“I looked over [to see] if he was OK, he gave me a thumbs-up, I went back to rolling up a rope to make sure everything was secure for the trip, and then he was gone,” said Doug. “That was the last time we saw him before we had to identify his body.”
The couple came to the realization that Afton fell off the boat. Officials searched for the little boy for hours and the next day, using sonar equipment, they found his body. It was concluded that he drowned.
“We knew our son could swim. We thought that was very odd,” said Krissy.
“My son was a swimmer. He’s been in the water since he was 6 months old,” added Doug.
It was a month later when the official report came out: Afton died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
“He was gone before he even touched that water,” said Krissy.
Officials warn the colorless and odorless gas can emit from the engine and can create a toxic vacuum of fumes at the back of the boat. It’s especially dangerous at slow speeds or when the boat is docked and the engine is on.
“It is an open boat, mid-engine boat and going at a slow speed, the exhaust is underneath the boat, underneath the back deck,” said Doug.
Doug, being a firefighter and an avid boater, never knew about the dangers of carbon monoxide in the open water. Krissy said they had never been warned about carbon monoxide poisoning on a boat.
“We’ve all sat back there. We all sat on those back seats, too. It’s what they’re for,” she said.
Now, through their pain, they want to share their story.
“When we lost Afton, there was just this hole right here and it never ever gets filled again, and it’s just this emptiness. That’s a good and bad thing because when I feel that emptiness, it’s like I have to do something. We have to do something. We have to tell other people about this and that’s what we are doing,” she said.
They want other parents to know that smaller children should never be in the back of the boat at low speeds, as carbon monoxide can poison their bodies at a faster rate.
“The proper way is for everybody to sit in the front of the boat,” said Doug. “Even the open air boats can be and is very dangerous to small children if you don’t know.”
T.J. Martin with the Parma Fire Department said it is important to buy a carbon monoxide detector for your boat, no matter what type it is and, especially, if you have a small indoor cabin.
“When you take the cabin of a boat, which is substantially smaller than a house, and emit carbon monoxide to the area, the area fills up exponentially quicker,” said Martin.
Martin said if you feel like you may have carbon monoxide poisoning, get into fresh air as fast as possible, away from the engine, and call 911.
The Taylors are working to create a law in Ohio dedicated to Afton and creating more awareness about carbon monoxide poisoning on boats.
They have started “Love Like Afton,” which is an organization dedicated to spreading information about carbon monoxide poisoning and dedicated to acts of kindness, like buddy benches at schools. They said their boy had a big heart and loved everyone.
“We just want to spread his love the best we can,” said Krissy.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include a headache, weakness, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision, and loss of consciousness.
This story was originally published by Jessi Schultz at WEWS.