Investigators: Water heater led to high levels of carbon monoxide in Reitter home

Local News

GENOA TOWNSHIP (WCMH) — Police in Genoa Township say it appears a recently installed water heater leaked high levels of carbon monoxide inside the Reitter family home.  

According to the Genoa Township Police Department, Carbon monoxide levels exceeding 999ppm were found in the home of the Reitter family where four members and three dogs were found dead, May 2.  

The bodies of Richard Gabriel Reitter III, Jennifer Reitter, Richard Gabriel Reitter IV and Grace Reitter were located in separate rooms, either in bed or in bathrooms, and no carbon monoxide detectors were found in the home. 

Police say the last known contact with the family was the evening of Monday, April 29, 2019 and they had all complained of illness. The schools were notified by the parents that their daughter would not be attending school on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 due to illness. 

After investigating appliances in the home, it was determined that a Navien NPE-240A tankless water heater installed by Richard Reitter III and a friend on December 15, 2018, had an exhaust pipe that appeared slightly dislodged.  

When a forensic engineering company tested the water heater during the death investigation, it began emitting high levels of carbon monoxide and testing had to be stopped before it was possible to conclude if the cause of carbon monoxide was faulty installation or a faulty unit.  

The Montgomery County Coroner, who performed autopsies on the Reitter family, has issued a preliminary report listing the cause of death as carbon monoxide saturation. After the blood gasses are analyzed, which will take several weeks, the cause of death may be changed to carbon monoxide intoxication.  

There were no other signs of trauma or any other cause of death indicated, according to police. 

The Genoa Township Fire Department learned, May 5, the Fort Morrow Fire District in Marion County, Ohio responded to a similar incident in which an individual survived after being exposed to carbon monoxide in their home.

The source of carbon monoxide in the Marion County incident was a Navien NCB-240E tankless water heater that had been converted from natural gas to propane. It was installed in September 2018.

Genoa Township Police and Fire Departments reviewed photographs of the water heater in the Marion County incident and noted the exhaust pipe was dislodged in what seems to be the same location and manner as the unit in the Reitter home.

On December 20, 2018 the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall for about 3400 Navien tankless water heaters with several different models because a “kit installed on the tankless water heaters and boilers to convert them from natural gas to propane can cause the unit to produce excessive amounts of carbon monoxide, posing a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning to consumers.”

The information on this recall is available on the CPSC website.

Police emphasised it is still too early to determine whether the carbon monoxide leak was caused by faulty installation or a product defect, but they have contacted the Ohio Attorney General’s consumer product safety section and, with their assistance, reported the two similar incidents to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on May 10.

The findings of the Genoa Township investigation are being provided to assist in determining what, if any, investigation will be conducted. 

Because investigators have determined there was no crime committed in the deaths of the Reitters, the case has been closed by the Genoa Township Police Department.

Read the full release from the Genoa Township Police Department:


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