94-year-old smoke inhalation victim dies after being rescued

Published 9:38 am Monday, September 2, 2013

A 94-year-old woman firefighters rescued Wednesday from a smoke-filled house on the west side of Albert Lea has died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Helen Modderman passed away at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Hennepin County Medical Center. Albert Lea firefighters were dispatched to 410 Bel Aire Drive shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday, where they doused the interior fire, pulled her from the home and carried her to a waiting Gold Cross ambulance.

Ambulance personnel resuscitated Modderman before delivering her to Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea. She was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center in downtown Minneapolis, where she spent time in a hyperbaric chamber while in the intensive care unit. Hyperbaric chambers provide pure oxygen to patients, and increase the amount of oxygen in a body’s tissue.

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Investigators haven’t stated a cause of the fire, but Modderman’s daughter, Jane Haukoos, said the family believes it was the electrical lift chair or the air conditioner.

Capt. Lee DeVries of the Albert Lea Fire Department said the investigation is ongoing and a determination has not been made. The State Fire Marshal’s Office is involved.

Jane said her mother’s lungs improved with the medical treatment, but she never regained consciousness. She praised the police, fire and medical staff for their work.

Modderman is survived by her only child, Jane, and Jane’s husband, Steve, who live in Alden. Steve called dispatchers about the smoke when he had stopped to check on Helen. Jane and Steve have two grown children, Gina, 23, and Heather, 27.