A son has been left heartbroken after finding his mother and sister dead. Tyla Wanstall was devastated to discover his mother and sister died in his burger van while they were decorating it for his birthday. Leah Churchill, 50, and Brooke Wanstall, 17, were decorating the Meat ‘N’ Greet snack in Whitstable, Kent, and reportedly died after inhaling smoke from generators. The cause of death is believed to be poisoning by carbon monoxide from generator fumes.
The distressed son told KentOnline he is “heartbroken” that his mum and sister spent their final moments “trying to put a smile on his face”, as he did not know they had gone to his food truck to prepare for his birthday party.
He told the publication: “They were decking the van out inside in balloons and bunting as a birthday surprise for me like my mum would do at home every year.”
The 26-year-old believes his mother turned on the gasoline generator “without realizing the danger” so they could “keep warm” while decorating. Tyla, who has just turned 26, said it was “obvious they were both dead” after he found his relatives lifeless inside the truck.
He recalled opening the van door and seeing his mum and sister lying on the floor and thought they “had fallen asleep”.
After smelling the smoke, it became obvious to him that they were both dead, prompting him to call the police and an ambulance. Firefighters called at the scene said the “likely” cause of their death was “carbon monoxide poisoning”.
Leah was a mother of four who lived in Wife of Bath Hill on the London Road Estate in Canterbury. She leaves behind another daughter, Ocean, 23, and another son Sonny, 12.
Tyla, who has just had a baby boy with his partner Beth, paid tribute to his mother and his sister, saying: “She [Leah] was so kind and would do anything for anyone.” He recalled how his mum Leah would take a homeless man off the streets if she could and how Brooke was a “live-wire with a huge personality”.
He said: “Mum worked all over the place, mostly in hospitality, and used to run the Share and Coulter pub in Greenhill. She was helping me in the burger van a couple of days a week.”
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His sister Brooke, he said, “had her whole life in front of her” after completing her GCSEs and graduating from Canterbury’s Archbishop’s School.
“She did really well in her grades and had just started working as a carer, which she was really enjoying. She was also due to take her driving test next week.”
The whole family is still grieving and processing what happened, according to Tyla. They are planning a balloon release in memory of his mother and daughter on Herne Bay beach on Wednesday at 5pm, and everyone is invited.
Tyla has also issued a cautionary statement about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning after his sister and mum allegedly died from it.
“Be aware of this thing, people. If you haven’t got a carbon monoxide alarm go and get one. It is a serious killer. I don’t know how we’re ever going to get over this.”
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The number of deaths related to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning has dropped from 197 in 2013 to 116 in 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
In 2019, research from Energy UK’s ‘CO Be Alarmed!’ campaign alerted Britons of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, revealing one in three people – over 17 million people – were at risk of poisoning as they don’t have a carbon monoxide detector in their home.
The most common symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion, according to the CDC, which describes them as “flu-like”.
Breathing a lot of CO can lead to death.
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