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snopes 18 October 2013 08:43 PM

Death by dry ice asphyxiation
Comment: It was a few decades ago. I don't know where. A baptist church was using
its sanctuary as a haunted house. Part of the tour was walking a plank
over the baptismal pool. A man was inside the pool, intending to reach up
and grab the ankles of those who crossed. The pool was filled with dry ice
so that he could be hidden beneath the fog. He died from asphyxiation.

This was pre-internet, and I can't find a reference to it.

Nick Theodorakis 18 October 2013 08:56 PM

I don't know about this particular case, but it's plausible. For example:

Asphyxiation due to dry ice in a walk-in freezer.

Dunford JV, Lucas J, Vent N, Clark RF, Cantrell FL.
J Emerg Med. 2009 May;36(4):353-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2008.02.051. Epub 2008 Sep 23



Exposure to a high concentration of environmental carbon dioxide (CO2) can result in poisoning through direct toxicity and by displacing atmospheric oxygen (O2). Dry ice undergoes sublimation to a gaseous state at -78.5 degrees C (-109.3 degrees F), which is heavier than air and can accumulate in dependent areas.


We report the case of a 59-year-old man found in cardiac arrest shortly after entering a recently repaired walk-in freezer that contained dry ice. First responders and bystanders did not recognize the proximate hazardous environment but were fortunately uninjured. A careful Emergency Department history coupled with rapid case investigation by the Medical Examiner's Office led to the determination of the cause of death and the elimination of the ongoing hazard.


This case illustrates the lethal consequences of improper storage of dry ice and the need to consider toxic environmental exposure as a cause of sudden cardiac arrest.

DaGuyWitBluGlasses 18 October 2013 11:57 PM

I'd like to know more details about the freezer case.

My understanding is that CO2 is not a silent killer, due to it forming carbonic acid as it dissolves in the lungs mucus. Which is why your lungs start to hurt as you hold your breath.

So someone in danger of CO2 asphyxiation should recognize they are in distress. That doesn't necessarily mean they'll realize what's actually happening and take the right action. But it's hard to imagine someone in that distress not getting out of the freezer.

With the pool i'd think as long as it was waist deep or shallower someone in distress would react to get out of the pool. On the other hand if it's deep enough to make walking to the edge more difficult than swimming, i can see how someone would react by staying where they are and just trying to keep their head above water.

Singing in the Drizzle 19 October 2013 03:19 AM

What you are looking for is hypercapnia or carbon dioxide poisoning. Asphyxiation is probably a bad term since there is probably still enough oxygen in the air.

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