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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Star's Death Spurs Market

NEW YORK -- Investors hoping to turn tragedy into profit snapped up stock in two gas detector companies after news that former tennis star Vitas Gerulaitis died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.


Shares of First Alert Inc. jumped 8 percent while American Sensors Inc. gained 7.5 percent in heavy trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market.


Those companies are the two primary makers of carbon monoxide detectors, which have been highly popular with U.S. homeowners since their widespread introduction about a year ago.


Both companies reported receiving numerous calls from curious investors Tuesday after a medical examiner's ruling on Gerulaitis' death.


Executives said they were uncomfortable with the attention, but added that at least it will increase public awareness about the dangers of carbon monoxide in the home, and the fact that smoke detectors do not guard against it.


"Unfortunately it takes a tragedy to make people aware of their safety needs," said Richard Timmons of Aurora, Illinois-based First Alert. "This shows that if it can happen to somebody who is famous, then maybe it can happen to everybody."


Michael Lupynec, president and chief executive of American Sensors said: "We hope this will eventually produce an end result in which carbon monoxide detectors will be as common as smoke detectors and there will be fewer deaths due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning."


Timmons said 1,500 people die each year in the United States alone from accidental poisoning by the colorless, odorless and tasteless gas. Potential sources include faulty gas stoves, furnaces or hot water heaters, cars in adjacent garages or kerosene heaters.