WASILLA -- Joseph Hubbard returned to Alaska earlier this week, a survivor of the carbon monoxide poisoning that took his wife's life but spared their young daughter.
The 28-year-old, flown from the family's Meadow Lakes home in critical condition on Nov. 7, spent several days at a special hyperbaric treatment center at Virginia Mason Hospital & Medical Center in Seattle to treat toxic levels of carbon monoxide in his blood.
His wife, 25-year-old Angela Hubbard, died at the home on South Kyrsten Circle after medics tried unsuccessfully to revive her with CPR.
Their 4-year-old daughter spent a short time at Mat-Su Regional Medical Center for treatment of elevated blood levels of carbon monoxide, authorities said last week.
First responders arriving at the home discovered staggeringly high levels of carbon monoxide in a back utility room.
An older relative came to the house around 9 a.m. on Nov. 7, discovered the adults unconscious, then called for help. She required a medical evaluation, as did two coworkers who entered the house to help and pulled out the girl before the fumes overwhelmed them.
State and local fire investigators say a ventilation system in the house helped siphon the toxic gas into living areas, which had no carbon monoxide detectors installed.
The gas apparently overcame the family as they slept. Rescuers discovered the girl in a master bedroom with her mother. They found Joe Hubbard in a nearby bathroom.
A friend of the family on Thursday described Angela Hubbard as a gifted singer and devout Christian who loved karaoke.
Karen Pippen had known Angela Hubbard since she was a little girl who loved dogs and learned to shoot at an early age.
"She would go hunting with her dad," said Pippen, who owns a Lake Iliamna lodge with her husband. "She wasn't afraid of a lot of things."
Hubbard worked at the Wasilla office of Dr. John Hunter, according to an obituary written by her family. Before that, she had her own cleaning company so she could spend more time with her daughter, Pippen said. She attended Independent Baptist Church in Big Lake
The obituary described Hubbard as vivacious and outgoing and said she "had quite a laugh, was a big helper, ran a nursery, and volunteered time to help at church before anyone even asked."
She sang a song to her husband at their wedding reception.
Hubbard's parents haven't yet held a funeral service for their only daughter, Pippen said.
"Certainly, thank the Lord that Joe survived and they will still have the little girl," she said.
Authorities say the tragedy serves as a grim reminder of the importance for homeowners to install carbon monoxide detectors and keep them in good working order.
The Hubbard home did not have any detectors, though it appeared that each room had been wired for them, fire officials said.
The state fire marshal's office determined the fatal gas leak was caused by "insufficient burning" in a furnace that created the carbon monoxide, which then was sucked into the home through vents, Department of Public Safety spokesman Megan Peters said.
"It was a multi-pronged problem," Peters said.
Someone had installed an exhaust fan that was too powerful for the heating unit and the small utility room where it was located, according to a Mat-Su Borough emergency responder who investigated the leak.
The fan, located in the house between the kitchen and living room ceilings, "would suck the air out of the utility room and cause the carbon monoxide to be pulled from the exhaust pipe into the room," said West Lakes Fire Department Battalion Chief James Keel.
Keel said the monoxide probably came from an on-demand boiler for radiant heat in the floor.
The gas reached the family through a ceiling-level vent that ran directly from the utility room to the master bedroom, probably to provide heat, he said.
It wasn't immediately clear who installed the exhaust fan.
Officials urged people making repairs or alterations on heating systems to take the appropriate steps to make sure they're safe.
"Whenever you do something to modify your heating system, when you're doing something that involves combustion of any kind, get somebody who's licensed and certified to do it," said West Lakes Fire Department Chief Bill Gamble. "Or if you do it yourself, have somebody who's licensed and certified check it."
By ZAZ HOLLANDER