‘We must keep raising awareness about killer gas’

Catherine and Johnny McFerran are continuing their campaign to raise awarenss about the dangers of carbon monoxide. INNT 47-513con
Catherine and Johnny McFerran are continuing their campaign to raise awarenss about the dangers of carbon monoxide. INNT 47-513con

THE mother of a Whiteabbey teenager killed by carbon monoxide poisoning has welcomed new laws requiring life-saving detectors to be fitted in new homes, but said it is crucial that an awareness campaign about the silent killer is maintained.

Last week legislation was passed meaning carbon monoxide detectors must be installed in every new home in Northern Ireland.

And alarms, which cost as little as £5, must also be installed alongside replacement boilers in existing houses.

The laws have been introduced after teenagers Neil McFerran and Aaron Davidson, both 18, died at a holiday home in Castlerock in August 2010.

The Glengormley High students had been on holiday ahead of their exam results with another friend, Matthew Gaw, who survived.

Since the deaths the families of Neil and Aaron set up the Gis a Hug Foundation to raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide.

Catherine McFerran told the Times: “The foundation is delighted with the legislation, which Northern Ireland has adopted ahead of England, Wales and Scotland.

“We were disappointed that the other three countries did not take it up, but it is a great positive.

“There is always more that can be done. This effectively means that five per cent of homes will have the detectors fitted, but we are delighted with the new law.

“It was something we did not ask for, but our politicians recognised its importance after the boys’ deaths. The important thing from the Foundation’s point of view is that awareness is raised of the dangers of carbon monoxide.

“People still believe it only relates to gas heating systems, but it is the incomplete burning of any fossil fuel, so it can be any heating system.

“And there is no warning for it. It is a silent killer in every way, which is why everyone should have their boilers regularly serviced and a working detector, and they should take one with them wherever they go.

“No one should have to go through what we are going through and a working detector can make a real difference.”

Since the establishment of the Foundation the Davidson and McFerran families have raised funds to distribute carbon monoxide detectors to groups of vulnerable people.

Catherine continued: “We heard from one elderly lady who had the detector installed and a week later it went off, and she did not know what to do.

“So eventually she got the right people in and they found out that her chimney was partially blocked.

“That is also important that people know what to do when the alarm goes off on a detector. They should get out of the property and immediately call the fire service.

“But it is a tremendous comfort to hear from people. There are a lot of near-misses that we have heard about that may have ended up worse.

“The message is getting out there about the dangers of carbon monoxide, but we need to keep that up.”

l The Gis a Hug Foundation has been selected as the charity of the year by Carrick Rangers and the club is hosting a fundraiser in Carrick Golf Club on Saturday, November 24 from 7.30pm. Admission is £3.