NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Tuesday, October 4, 2016, 5:02 PM
A woman and her daughter inhaled a toxic gas, likely from their car’s defective battery, before they were found dead along Florida’s turnpike, officials said.
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 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 Lincoln’s SUV as they drove toward Miami on Florida’s 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.
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.
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.
“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.”