North Carolina hotel room a CO deathtrap?

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06/12/2013

North Carolina requires carbon monoxide detectors in homes and apartments, but not in hotels. Now, some tragic deaths in a hotel room in Boone, N.C. make a compelling argument for a CO detector mandate for hotels.

First, an elderly couple died in April in room 225 in the Best Western Plus Blue Ridge Plaza, according to news reports. Then, on Saturday, an 11-year-old boy was found dead in the same room, reports say.

Blood tests show that the April deaths were due to CO poisoning, according to TIME Magazine.

Next to die, on June 8, was the young boy, Jeffrey Lee Williams. “The cause of death was determined to be asphyxia, meaning his lungs couldn’t get enough oxygen,” TIME reported June 9. “Williams, from Rock Hill, S.C., died spontaneously, and his 49-year-old mother was hospitalized in critical condition — circumstances strangely similar to that of Daryl Dean Jenkins, 73, and Shirley Mae Jenkins, 72, from Longview, Wash., who were found dead in the same room on April 16.”

It has not yet been established if CO poisoning caused the boy to die and his mother to become ill, news reports said. But TIME said that an initial test taken the day the boy died “showed a high amount of poisonous gas in the room.” A toxicology analysis is pending, the magazine said.

The report says police didn’t explain why it took two months to get toxicology results on what caused the Jenkins to die. Earlier results, the magazine said,  “could have led to the closing of the hotel long before Williams’ death.”

The magazine added, “Room 225 is directly above the room housing a natural gas heater for the hotel’s swimming pool. Documents obtained by the Charlotte Observer show a Watauga County Health Department report indicating deficiencies in the pool.”

According to an NBC report, the independently owned and operated hotel released a statement saying, “The health and safety of guests who stay at our hotel is our No. 1 priority. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of those involved. We are cooperating fully with authorities who are investigating this truly tragic incident.”

According to a new interactive map of CO legislation in the United States developed by System Sensor, North Carolina’s law requiring CO detectors in homes and multi-family dwellings took effect Jan. 1, 2010. System Sensor, based in St. Charles, Ill., makes fire detection and notification devices, including carbon monoxide detectors.