Savannah Bettis was traveling home from a shopping trip with her boyfriend when she got a bad headache and passed out.
Her boyfriend, Jesse Hurt, immediately called her parents and began heading to the hospital. But moments later, he, too, passed out and crashed the car. Savannah, who was looking forward to her high school graduation the next week, was killed and Jesse was injured.
“What we know from Savannah’s case is that the vehicle she was riding in was leaking substantially,” said Sen. Michael Crider, R-Greenfield. “The autopsy determined that really the primary cause of her death was not injuries from vehicle accident. It was from carbon monoxide poisoning.”
Crider and Sen. Michael Delph, R-Carmel, have authored Senate Bill 100, which would allow fire departments to perform carbon monoxide emission tests on vehicles free of charge. On Tuesday, the legislation, known as Savannah’s Law, passed the Senate 48-0.
Currently, the Wayne Township Fire Department offers voluntary free carbon monoxide emission test to the public.
After her death, Alexis Harris, friend of Savannah and her parents, Wendy and John Bettis, created the #SavannahStrong foundation.
John and Wendy Bettis reached out to Delph, in hopes of spreading awareness about the risk of carbon monoxide leaks in older car across Indiana and getting a law passed in the General Assembly.
“She always helped everyone. It didn’t matter race, clique, what type of person you were, she was there for everybody and anybody,” John Bettis said of his daughter in an interview. “She was her own individual person that went above and beyond to help others.”
The #SavannahStrong foundation funds the Savannah Bettis Memorial Endowed Scholarship with the Wayne Township Education Foundation—a scholarship to help high school seniors further their education.
“Savannah Strong means everything to me and Wendy. It’s moving Savannah Bettis’s legacy along on what she would do in life if she was here,” John Bettis said. “We will continue doing this for the rest of are life as far as raising awareness, having events, helping others.”
The Bettis family supported the bill and now encourage citizens to get their vehicles tested at their local fire stations.
A carbon monoxide test takes fewer than 15 minutes. While the vehicle is running, a trained firefighter places a carbon monoxide meter inside the vehicle. After the time has passed, the meter displays the amount of carbon monoxide leaking into the vehicle.
When carbon monoxide is present in vehicles there are no warning signs because the invisible gas has no taste or smell. Among the symptoms of poisoning are headaches, nausea, dizziness and shortness of breath.
The only way to know whether a vehicle is at risk is to test it.
Andy Harris, firefighter for the Wayne Township Fire Department, said citizens should get vehicles tested yearly and those 10 years and older need to be monitored more frequently.
The bill now moves to the House.
Bryan Wells contributed to this report. Amari Thompson and Bryan Wells are reporters for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.