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Family Believes CO Poisoning Caused Son's Fish House Death

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The family of a 21-year-old man who was found unresponsive in a fish house believes carbon monoxide poisoning could be to blame for his death.

Friends called 911 after finding Sam Schooley in the top bunk of their fish house on Leech Lake Sunday morning. The group was there for the Eelpout Festival.

Sam's dad, Tom Schooley, said his son was at home when he was outdoors and active.

"He didn't like being attached to his phone. He liked being out snowmobiling, four-wheeling, fishing, hunting," Tom said.

They are passions that started early in life that Sam and his dad Tom shared.

Sam Schooley
Sam Schooley (credit: Schooley Family)

"He was my best friend," Tom said. "The trips that we took and the time that we spent together were, they were the best times I had."

Sam went on an adventure with friends to Leech Lake last weekend. They stayed in a fish house on the lake. Friends told his family Sam went to bed Saturday night and never woke up.

"They tried to roust him to get him up, and eventually they couldn't, he was unresponsive, so they called the ambulance," Tom said. "For me, there was still hope at that time, but he had been dead for hours."

Doctors told the family the percentage of carbon monoxide in Sam's system was 58 percent.

"I guess I have a little bit of peace that he didn't suffer," Tom said. "It seems like a rip off. Twenty-one years is too young."

Sam's father said he wants others to be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide in fish houses. The house had a detector inside, but it was near the ground and the gas rises. Sam was sleeping in a top bunk.

"I'm not much of an activist, but I probably could be for this," Tom said.

He said Sam's friends who slept in the lower bunks showed lower levels of carbon monoxide exposure.

An autopsy is being done to determine an official cause of death.


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