On Monday, 4 children were killed after a deadly, toxic phosphine gas was created when water mixed with pesticide, which contained aluminium phosphide. A family friend, Terry Rodriguez, identified the children, one of whom was a high school senior, 17-year-old Yasmeen Balderas while the others were her three little brothers, Johnny, Josue and Felipe Balderas. The youngest was 7 years old. Authorities believe that the deaths were accidental.
“Yasmeen was a senior at Palo Duro HS. She was a quiet simple girl, looking forward to graduation,” Rodriguez wrote on a GoFundMe page that has been set up to help the family.
“Josue wanted to be a priest and was an alter server at St Lawrence. He was a gentle soul, slow to anger and quick to provide comfort,” he continued.
“Johnny was a comic. So smart and so aware of his strengths and weaknesses. He was the first to laugh at himself and never met a stranger who wasn’t just a friend in the making.”
“Felipe was everyone’s friend,” he added.
According to authorities, someone applied a pesticide — aluminum phosphide — under a family’s mobile home in Amarillo. Later on, a family member used water to try to wash away the pesticide, said Capt. Larry Davis of the Amarillo Fire Department. It was not immediately clear why. When the water mixed with the pesticide, it created a gas that spelled death for the children at the home.
Capt. Davis said that there were 10 people inside the mobile home at the time. Emergency crews arrived just after 5 a.m. after receiving a call that people there were feeling sick. In addition to the four children killed, five other people from inside the home were taken to hospital.
It has been reported that man who lives at the mobile home and who applied the aluminum phosphide on the ground got the pesticide from a friend. The Environmental Protection Agency lists aluminum phosphide in “Toxicity Category I” — the most toxic category. Specifically, the EPA points to the “acute effects via the inhalation route.”
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, an estimated 1 million to 5 million cases of pesticide poisoning occurs each year, “resulting in several thousand fatalities among agricultural workers,” Aside from undeveloped countries, pesticide deaths have also happened in developed countries. In 2016, CNN partner CBC reported that an 8-month-old Canadian girl died after her mother used phosphine tablets as a pesticide in their home.