Mother in Critical Condition After Accidental Poisoning Kills 4 Children

AMARILLO, TX – Officials say a Texas father and four of his children hospitalized since an apparent accidental poisoning killed four of their siblings have been upgraded to good condition.

A spokeswoman at BSA Health System in Amarillo says the five were listed in good and stable condition Wednesday.

An official with University Medical Center in Lubbock says the man’s wife and the children’s mother, Martha Balderas, remained in critical condition Wednesday.

Poisonous gas was released when a family member used water to wash away pesticide pellets he had placed under the mobile home, authorities said. Fire officials said the three boys, ages, 7, 9 and 11, and a 17-year-old girl, died Monday.

A criminal investigation is underway and being handled by the department’s special crimes unit because children were involved, police spokesman Officer Jeb Hilton said. Amarillo Fire Capt. Larry Davis said Tuesday that the father told first responders he had spread a professional grade pest control pellet under the family’s mobile home.

Authorities later determined that phosphine gas (aluminum phosphide) – a highly toxic inorganic compound with the chemical formula AlP used as a wide band gap semiconductor and a fumigant – was likely released when the father used a garden hose on Sunday to try to wash away the pesticide.

A professional certification or license is required to purchase the product, called Weevil-Cide, a versatile fumigant for use on stored raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, animal feed and feed ingredients.

Chip Orton, emergency management coordinator for the city of Amarillo and Potter and Randall counties, said his staff is working with a number of state and federal agencies to decontaminate the home. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has hired a private contractor to help.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported 82 exposures to aluminum phosphide in 2015 with two deaths.