When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have H2S

maksimilia-and-latifa-lincolnPeople have been killing themselves with the creations of Dr Porsche’s firm ever since V-E Day put the old Nazi out of the business of machinery for killing other people.

But this is one for the books; an entirely novel way to expire in the driver’s seat of a Porsche.

Medical examiners announced Tuesday they suspect hydrogen sulfide poisoning caused the June 2 deaths of Latifa Lincoln, 46, and Maksmilla Lincoln, 3, WESH-TV reported.

Coroners uncovered high levels of the flammable gas that smells like rotten eggs in the urine of the victims. Investigators believe a problem with the battery in Lincoln’s Porsche Cayenne caused an exposure to the deadly gas, which normally affects industrial workers rather than drivers poisoned by their car batteries.

It’s not just a rare mishap. It’s a first-time-ever, they think.

“It’s unprecedented. I haven’t been able to find another case,” assistant Orange-Osceola Medical Examiner told WESH.

Latifa Lincoln, 45, and her 3-year-old daughter, Maksmilla Lincoln, were found dead in Lincolns SUV as they drove toward Miami on Floridas Turnpike in June.

)A Florida Highway Patrol trooper and two Osceola County Sheriff’s deputies found Lincoln and her daughter motionless in the SUV. They were sitting in their seats with the car’s engine and radio still running, WFTV reported in June.

The car had bumped into a guardrail at mile marker 224 as the Lincolns traveled to Miami. Sources told the TV station at the time investigators suspected carbon monoxide as their cause of death after finding vomit in the car and rash-like splotches on the bodies.

Hazmat teams examined the car, but all initial air tests turned out negative, according to WFTV’s sources. Investigators did find a receipt from a mechanic on the passenger seat and paper mats on the floor of the 2006 Cayenne, though, the sources said.And the three original responding officers reported “a foul caustic chemical odor” in the car, according to an incident report obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes hydrogen sulfide forms in energy refineries, mills, coke ovens, and food processing plants, alongside human and animal waste and other natural causes.

“Just a few breaths of air containing high levels of hydrogen sulfide can cause death,” according to the CDC’s guide.Investigators have been waiting on toxicology results for months, and they plan to send the car to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration for more tests.

Something does not add up here. While this toxic gas does knock off an average of 6 people a year in the USA, they’re generally industrial workers dealing with hazardous and reactive chemicals. So this is either an accident chain of heretofore unimagined events, or it’s some extremely canny and creative homicide.

Hydrogen sulfide killed 60 industrial workers between 2001 and 2010, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Workers have died from exposures in underground sewer pipes, manure pits and industrial lift stations, among other examples.

While the story is old, early October, the investigation is even older — five months old, now. And it continues. It does appear that human action contributed, but was it an error, or something else?

Investigators will need results from more tests to confirm the SUV’s battery caused the Lincolns to inhale the deadly gas, Orange-Osceola Medical Examiner’s Office spokeswoman Carrie Proudfit told the Sentinel.Student commits suicide by inhaling gas near UT campus“The battery was not the original battery for the vehicle, nor the correct battery and is believed to have malfunctioned,” Proudfit said. “Both vehicle and battery will undergo additional examination by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.”

via Woman, girl died after inhaling hydrogen sulfide, coroners say – NY Daily News.

We suppose we have to keep an open mind — like the investigators.

21 thoughts on “When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have H2S

  1. John M.

    Shoot, I can solve this one. She’s had too much, uh, contact with Bill Clinton. Verdict: suicide.

    -John M.

  2. George

    “responding officers reported “a foul caustic chemical odor” in the car”

    Hydrogen Sulfide is the same gas that is added to LP and natural gas for the purpose of recognition of a gas leak. Seems odd that the woman did not notice the odor of rotten eggs in her car; then pull over and get out.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Depends. At a low concentration, it smells bad. A little higher, and it burns your eyes and mucous membranes. At a high concentration, you could be dead as soon as you smell it.

    2. OM

      H2S is not added to natural gas as. It is too dangerous. They use a mercaptan of some sort, not H2S.

      The toxic concentration for H2S is too low and there is the other effect that above a certain (not immediately lethal) concentration your sense of smell stops working; it’s still there you just don’t smell it. Then you are dead.

      It is a serious workplace hazard in the Oil and Gas industry (drilling, refining). Wyoming is particularly dangerous in some areas because of H2S. I was lucky working in ND that our wells didn’t have it. But we had the air monitoring equipment and were trained to get the hell out if the alarms sounded

  3. Waah.

    Over charge of batteries causes gases in excess of normal. But how did these gases get into the pass. compartment? Batts in the stern ? Auto alternators go to hell about 125k miles on ave. What is the vehicle milage?Voltage regulator fail in overcharge state? I had a Ford escort diesel wagon do this to me on a trip home to Maine from Fla. and don”t remember the last 30 or so miles, nor does my wife. Put me down on the real lucky list please. Rip to these victims.

  4. LFMayor

    Cabin air set to recirculating might have been a factor too. Newer cars seem sealed better. Any info on how long they’d been in the car?

  5. Blackshoe

    Wow, H2S. That’s one of the things we worry about on the ships all the time, mainly from the CHT (that is sewage) systems. Weird to see it coming up in the civilian world.

  6. Mike_SMO

    There are some exotic battery chemistries out there. The original, supposedly abandoned, Lithium system was Li X Titanium Disulfide (Exxon) that was expensive to make and tricky to use since exposure of the ingredients to air produced a huge volume of toxic Hydrogen Disulfide (H2S). There are a number of sulphur containing modern alternatives, Li X Thionyl Chloride (Li X SOCl2), Li X Sulphur Dioxide (Li X SO2). Airbus was apparently involved in a Li X Sulphur (Li X S) battery system for their solar-powered “Pseudo-Satillite” aircraft. There are a number of potential chemistry systems that might have produced a large volume of H2S, almost instantly.

    Why would anyone bother for a conventional automobile except maybe to provide increased power for, maybe, daytripping with a portable ‘fridge to keep a childs snacks cold in the Florida heat. (Sounds good to me; we had three.)

    So maybe someone in Florida brought home something really special from the office/airport/base without the expensive charging control system or the sealed, vent-to–the-exterior battery storage compartment.

    We had three and we also enjoyed trips away from the three, so I fully understand the attraction of something like a powered cooler/’fridge. I might however have considered a separate battery system for recreational use, such as those found on some campers/buses, and maybe a bumper mount for the high energy chemistry package.

    The modern batteries contain a scary amount of energy. I would not be comfortable mounting a chem-warefare or incendiary device under my co-pilot’s butt inside the crew compartment. The image of Lithium batteries igniting are bad enough. I would not even consider some device with a “second breath you’re dead” failure mode.

    My sympathy and empathy for the poor SOB who installed that battery.

    1. Hognose Post author

      A quick bing around the net finds that the car comes with a Bosch unit for which Bosch makes claims of quality but not exotic chemistry. Normal aviation batteries are not exotic chemistry either (I once co-owned a Part 145 FBO, a service station for small airplanes). They did say it was not the standard battery. They did not say what it was. Maybe they don’t know what it was. For cops that usually investigate accidents that are pretty obvious due to the BAC of the mishap driver or crimes that are committed by low-brow thugs with low-tech implements, this has to be a real test.

      I thought it was curious that in none of the various articles that I saw was the father of the child mentioned at all. My kid, I’d be screaming for answers or screaming for blood, no matter how estranged I was from Plaintiff.

      1. John M.

        Hognose, catch up with The Narrative. No newspaper is interested in what the father has to say about anything. After all, fathers are nincompoops. Don’t you even watch TV?

        -John M.

    2. John M.

      You should contact the law enforcement agency investigating this. Having someone who knows this subject matter may give them some leads on the matter.

      -John M.

  7. Kenrick

    There are a number of Euro SUVs that have the battery located in the passenger compartment under the passenger or in this case, the driver’s seat. Not something I’ve been keen on changing myself, I recommend a mechanic or dealer install as the batteries are usually ‘special’.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I imagine they are responding to weight distribution or crashworthiness standards or goals, there. I was a bit surprised to see it there. We used to relocate Mustang batteries to the trunk on the passenger side for road racing, because the factory installation in a 64-70 Mustang is out in a front corner, about the last place you want that much dead weight for cornering (especially in a car with front weight bias to start).

    2. whomever

      Older VW Bugs had the battery under the rear seat. I assumed it was just the Teutonic version of too clever by half. Along with the air in the spare tire providing the window washer pressure (saved having a pump but partially deflated the spare) and the cabin heat/defrost being provided by the main engine fan blowing air over the engine (saved a fan, but you couldn’t put the defroster on ‘high’ with the motor idling). But the windshield was flat, not concave on the inside, so you could use a scraper on the inside while you drove.

  8. 10x25mm

    Hydrogen sulphide evolves from lead acid batteries when their internal lead plates are damaged, they are charged at excessive currents (>10A), or their temperatures are above 60 C (140 F). Even so, they rarely create immediately toxic concentrations in air which would be something more than 500 ppm. Most MSDSs have had their toxicology data scrubbed since 9/11, but the hydrogen sulphide OSHA PEL is 15 / 10 PEL for short / long term exposure – levels which produce strongly obnoxious odors.

    Hydrogen sulphide is becoming popular as an agent to commit suicide [a]:
    The use of hydrogen sulfide as a means of committing suicide became a trend in Japan in 2007.[1] In these cases, bath sulfur was mixed with toilet bowl cleaner to produce the gas. Subsequently, the practice spread to the United States—facilitated by Web sites providing instructions on the technique—and its use appears to be increasing.[1, 2]
    In these cases, hydrogen sulfide is created by mixing household chemicals (eg, an acidic detergent such as a toilet bowl cleaner, which acts as a proton donor, and a sulfur source such as a pesticide or bath salts), leading to the terms detergent suicide and chemical suicide. These are mixed in an enclosed space, such as a closet or an automobile, and despite the fact that suicide victims often place warning signs on closet doors or car windows, rescue workers and others entering the space have been affected.[2]

    References:
    [a] Hydrogen Sulfide Toxicity, MedScape, Chip Gresham, MD, FACEM; Chief Editor: Asim Tarabar, MD
    [1] Reedy SJ, Schwartz MD, Morgan BW. Suicide fads: frequency and characteristics of hydrogen sulfide suicides in the United States. West J Emerg Med. 2011 Jul. 12(3):300-4.
    [2] Goode E. Chemical Suicides, Popular in Japan, Are Increasing in the U.S. NY Times, June 18, 2011.

    Suggests that it might also be suitable as an agent for homicide.

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