The deceased have been identified as Saravanan (38), his wife Kalaiarasi (30) and their son Karthik (8). While Saravanan worked in a cement export firm in Senneerkuppam, Karthik was a Class 3 student.
On Tuesday, when the family failed to emerge from the house at Metukulam, neighbours broke open the door and found Saravanan lying dead near the door, while Kalaiarasi and Karthik were found dead in the bedroom. They alerted Koyambedu police who rushed to the spot, retrieved the bodies and sent them to Kilpauk Medical College Hospital for post-mortem. After preliminary inquiry, police said that the trio could have died of asphyxiation.
Since there were repeated power cuts on Monday, Saravanan may have switched on a mini generator in the room to run the AC. Police said it is not clear whether they were asphyxiated due to smoke emanating from the generator since it was in the room or if there was a gas leak from the AC.
An officer said they had a mechanic examine the AC and found no fault with it. “It was a room below 100 sq ft and congested. Since the mini generator was inside the room, smoke issuing out of it could have caused their deaths. The victims’ viscera samples have been sent to the labs. The results will help us determine cause of death,” the officer added.
Gas leak possible, says AC technician
As early reports said that the family of three died of suffocation due to the gas leak from the air-conditioner, DT Next contacted Thiyagu, a city-based AC technician, who said gas leak was possible if copper valves in the air conditioner were damaged due to corrosion or other factors.
“But there is a possibility of toxic smoke being formed only if the gas reaches a live power socket. However, it will not result in a fire, as the refrigerant would be cold,” he said.
He added that if ACs were serviced regularly, the mechanic would check for holes in copper valves and change them to prevent leaks. Though R22 gas has been banned, some of the technicians still use it to refill old air-conditioners. The new ACs come with R23 or R410 gas that are relatively less harmful, Thiyagu added.
Iyappan, proprietor of an AC showroom in Porur, said if the AC has been unused for a long time, it was advisable to first service it before using it.