Water Heater's Rust Played Role in Iowa Family's Death

Investigators in Mexico say humidity made device deadly
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2018 6:34 AM CDT
Beth and Rodger Fry, center, leave the funeral for their daughter Amy Sharp and her family March 31, 2018, in Creston, Iowa.   (Brian Powers/The Des Moines Register via AP)

(Newser) – The very thing that lured an Iowa family to a vacation in Mexico—the climate—also figured in their deaths, say investigators. The humidity on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula where the Sharp family was staying had turned the water heater in their condo rusty, and that in turn led the device to leak propane, authorities tell the Des Moines Register. Kevin and Amy Sharp and their two kids, Sterling and Adrianna, all died of asphyxiation inside their luxury condo near Akumal. "There was a leak, and it was coming right from the laundry room," says the lead investigator in the Tulum municipality. "The laundry room had no ventilation whatsoever."

The water heater in question was only about 6 years old, but police say rust is a common problem in devices in that region of the Caribbean. The device used liquid propane for fuel, and high concentrations of the gas can be lethal. Sterling and Adrianna Sharp, ages 12 and 7, were found in front of the TV, while their parents were found in bedrooms. The condo was among others in a homeowners' association, though it belonged to a private owner who was responsible for its maintenance, per a previous story in the Register. The unit was regularly rented by tourists.

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