By Abbie Petersen
OMAHA, Nebraska (KETV) — For the first time, we’re hearing from the mother of a young Millard man who died from carbon monoxide last August.
Jodi Semonell says her son 19-year-old Cole Oban was at a friend, Thomas Coleman’s house, when both boys died along with Thomas’ dad David Coleman and their family dog.
Now she’s raising awareness about the “silent killer.”
It’s called the “silent killer” for a reason because that’s exactly what it is. Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless. But there can be a simple solution to ensure your safety.
Walking together down a path now filled with grief, Jodi Semonell and Phoenix Middleton say it wasn’t always that way.
When they think about Cole Oban, their son and friend.
“He was just all about making people laugh, making funny faces, just enjoying life and having fun,” Semonell said.
Semonell said Cole was funny, extremely smart, loved his siblings and had a lot of friends.
Like Middleton, who he met in college.
“Cole was really one of the first ones that reached out and was like, ‘Hey, I’m Cole, nice to meet you,'” Middleton said.
They both say Cole liked skateboarding and video games. So it wasn’t a surprise when Cole went to his friend Thomas’ house after class to do just that.
That night, Semonell says she was waiting for Cole to text her back.
“In the meantime, I did see that on the news that there was carbon monoxide poisoning in Millard. It didn’t click that it was Cole,” Semonell said.
Cole would come home, like he always did, she thought.
It wasn’t until she got a knock at her door from police late that night that her world was turned upside down.
Officers told her Cole was one of the three people who died.
“You worry about things like a car accident. You know, drinking and driving, something like that. You don’t think about your child going to their friend’s house and dying of carbon monoxide poisoning,” Semonell said.
“It felt like I was almost like in a movie. I didn’t know how to feel about it and know how to, like, react like, oh, this really happened. This is something you’d only see in like a crime show or something. But it happened to my friends,” Middleton said.
It’s now been eight months and the pain is no easier to bear.
“I have this hole in my heart, I have to live the rest of my life without Cole. It’s just the worst thing I could imagine,” Semonell said.
And Semonell still has so many questions.
It was determined by the Omaha Fire Department that the three inside died from carbon monoxide after a car was left in the garage of the home.
“So preventable. I’m angry. Yeah, I’m angry. But I know I shouldn’t be because a lot of people, it’s just not something that they think about until it impacts them,” Semonell said.
So she’s trying to prevent this from happening to anyone else.
Reminding people to buy and test carbon monoxide detectors.
“If this can prevent, you know, another family from losing a child, brother or sister. I am glad that people are paying attention,” Semonell said.
But Cole’s mom isn’t only talking about it, she’s also running for it.
On Aug. 22, she will start at the Wyoming border and will run the state of Nebraska, raising awareness about the ‘silent killer’ in the cities she passes through.
“Ending up here at this park on Aug. 31, which is the anniversary of losing the boys,” Semonell said.
That’s about 500 miles.
While running, she’s also helping to raise money for a skatepark in honor of Cole and Thomas.
Middleton says it was his idea because Timber Creek Park is where they skated.
And where friends gathered the night the boys died.
“We want to have a good memory attached to it. Not like we were waiting for the people to come down and say, yeah, he’s gone,” Middleton said.
With no skatepark in Millard, he thought this would be the perfect way to honor the boys, as they all navigate the path of life, trying to find a new normal.
“These people touched our lives and we want to be able to pass that gift on to others,” Middleton said.
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