Three mysterious deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning that occurred since April in the same Best Western hotel room in North Carolina have been traced back to the hotel’s pool water heater, which was located directly under the room.
Investigators from the Boone Police Department say that a pool heater in a mechanical room at the Best Western Blue Ridge Plaza leaked carbon monoxide into Room 225 above it. The hotel had reportedly been cited for problems with the mechanical room the heater was in a month before the first deaths occurred.
The odorless and colorless carbon monoxide fumes are believed to have killed Daryl Dean Jenkins, 73, and his wife Shirley Mae Jenkins, 72, in April. However, the cause of their deaths remained a mystery until an 11-year-old boy, Jeffrey Lee Williams, died in the same room on June 8. Williams’ mother, Jeannie Williams, 49, was also hospitalized from side effects of carbon monoxide exposure, but has survived.
The deaths all occurred in Room 225, which is directly above the mechanical room with the hotel’s pool heater. Boone police, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and the North Carolina State board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating and Fire Sprinkler Contractors all investigated the carbon monoxide deaths at the hotel.
According to a local media report by MoutainTimes.com, the hotel knew it had problems with that same mechanical room before the Jenkins died. On March 6, an inspector with the Appalachian District Health Department cited the hotel for a violation involving the pool room because it did not have natural cross ventilation or forced air ventilation. The inspector warned the hotel that the problem needed to be corrected immediately.
Investigators said it was not clear if the hotel had addressed the violation. They also said that maintenance was so poor and that corrosion of the system was so bad that adding the ventilation probably would not have prevented the three deaths.
Boone police said the investigation could result in criminal charges. Police are requesting that anyone who has stayed at the Best Western Blue Ridge Plaza in Room 225 contact them by calling (828) 268-6900 or email Sgt. Matt Stevens at [email protected]
Carbon Monoxide Exposure Risks
Carbon monoxide is a significantly toxic gas that has no irritating factors that can allow someone to detect its presence. Because people often fail to promptly recognize symptoms of carbon monoxide, it is a leading cause of fatal poisonings in the United States.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon monoxide poisoning kills about 500 people in the U.S. annually, and is linked to about 15,000 emergency room visits. In many cases, the injuries or deaths could have been prevented by the use of carbon monoxide detectors and proper maintenance of heating systems and generators.
Although it is widely recognized that carbon monoxide alarms in places where people sleep are critical for saving lives and reducing the risk of severe injury, many hotels still do not have carbon monoxide alarms installed.