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Kansas teacher dies from carbon monoxide poisoning

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — A Shawnee Mission North teacher is dead and her wife is currently in a Kansas City metro hospital fighting for her life after dangerous exposure to carbon monoxide in their home.

FOX4 spoke with Kenna Kobin’s mother-in-law Tammy Jo Smith, who is hoping and praying that her daughter Katie Kobin will pull through after hours of exposure to this carbon monoxide.

“I am doing this because I want everyone to know how important it is to have a carbon monoxide alarm in your home and in the right place. This is preventable,” Smith said.

Now there’s a plea from this couple’s family to you to take precautions.

Smith said Kenna, who was an instructional coach at Shawnee Mission North was always kind, and that’s the theme as the tributes roll in. Person after person spoke to her unmatched kindness.

“She was so vivacious and kind and loving and friendly, here they are living in a house and all their neighbors know them of course. She was an amazing teacher. For my daughter to find someone she truly loved and truly could connect with, my daughter’s life changed when she met Kenna,” Smith said. The loss of Kenna is profound for her family and her community. She taught in the district for seven years.

“She was an angel on earth. Every time she smiled first, you knew it was genuine,” Smith said.

Katie and Kenna Kobin met years ago while training, both competitive power lifters. In September 2020, in the midst of lockdowns while COVID-19 raged, the couple got married in their backyard.

On Friday, neither showed up for work. Police did a welfare check, and the fire department found the home was filled with dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

Kenna died, and Katie was rushed to a hospital. Both of their dogs and one of their cats also died.

Katie suffered catastrophic damage to her heart, and right now all they know is that she’s in a battle for her life.

“Carbon monoxide is considered the silent killer. It’s colorless, it’s odorless. I would encourage everybody to purchase a carbon monoxide detector, get it in your home immediately. Your family is worth that much,” said Butch Diekemper, an assistant chief of the Lenexa Fire Department.

The Kobins did have a detector that went off, but the couple couldn’t hear.

Here’s what you need to know to prevent a similar situation:

  • Have a carbon monoxide detector on every level where someone sleeps.
  • Any levels above 35 parts per million need immediate attention.
  • Never have your car running while the garage is closed – and pull it out when you start it.
  • Have all home appliances checked annually.
  • Symptoms include headache, dizziness and vomiting.

As for Smith, she’s confident she’ll get her daughter back because she said Katie is a fighter.

“If we get any of her mind back she will make sure her body comes back that’s all it takes for her because that’s Katie,” Smith said.

The good news is Katie is awake. She’s talking just a little and is responding to commands including a thumbs up.

A 2019 report from the consumer product safety commission found that more than half of all deaths from carbon monoxide happen in the older months of the year. November through February.

The EPA says half of all unintentional CO deaths could be prevented by an alarm, but fewer than a third of all homes have them. A basic carbon monoxide detector will only cost you about $15. Detectors with “smart” capabilities can run as much as $120.

In a letter sent home to families at Shawnee Mission North, Principal David Ewers said;

“Dear Parents,

I am writing to share with you some very difficult news. Friday, we learned that Kenna Kobin, an instructional coach here at Shawnee Mission North, was found deceased in her home. This is devastating news for all of us, as she was a cherished member of the North family. As you can imagine, this will be an extremely difficult time for her family, as they process their grief.”

‘I wanted you to know first as parents, so that you can share this information with your child. It is important that they hear this news directly from a caring adult. I have provided a resource that you can use to inform your child, if you feel it is appropriate.”

‘Death is always difficult to handle, but particularly so when it is someone that your child knows, and in many cases knows well. It will be important to recognize that all of us will need time to process what has happened, and to express our feelings. Your child may struggle to make sense of this death. Please encourage your child to express their feelings and be there to talk with them about what has happened.”

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