4 children die in Texas gas poisoning; others injured

AMARILLO, Texas (AP) — A Texas woman was in critical condition Tuesday following an accidental poisoning under her home that killed four of her children and sickened five other family members, hospital and fire officials said.

Crews who responded to a 5 a.m. call to the home on Monday originally thought it was related to carbon monoxide poisoning, but authorities later determined that phosphine gas was likely released when a family member used water to wash away pesticide pellets he had placed under the mobile home. One child died at the scene and three others died at a hospital.

Martha Balderas, 45, of Amarillo was in critical condition Tuesday at University Medical Center in Lubbock, according to a hospital spokesman. Her husband and four of their children were in stable condition at BSA Health System in Amarillo, according to the hospital and fire officials.

Fire officials said the children who died were three boys aged 7, 9 and 11, and a 17-year-old girl. Officials have said all four children lived at the home.

Investigators said it’s unclear how long the residents had been exposed to the phosphine gas before a visitor arrived Monday and found everyone sick and called 911. Phosphine gas can cause respiratory failure and in severe cases can cause a pulmonary edema, which fills the lungs full of fluid.

About 10 first responders from the police, fire and medical response departments were also taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure, but none had shown symptoms of illness.