WA couple died of carbon monoxide in N.C. motel

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by WCNC.com and KGW.com staff

NWCN.com

Posted on June 12, 2013 at 10:43 AM

Updated Friday, Dec 13 at 5:33 PM

BOONE, N.C. -- A Longview, Wash., couple who stayed in the same hotel room as a recently deceased 11-year-old North Carolina boy was also exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Boone Police Department.

In a press conference Monday, police said new toxicology tests confirmed Daryl and Shirley Jenkins died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The health department said Monday morning carbon monoxide was found in the room where Jeffrey Lee Willis died. Police said his autopsy results now show he died of asphyxiation.

The Jenkins' family lawyer issued a statement after the press conference. Attorney Mark Brumbaugh said the couple was in good health and very active before their deaths. He said they were in Boone looking for distant relatives.

“It is simply inconceivable that the hotel would choose to rent the same room to others while toxicology results were pending related to the deaths of Daryl and Shirley.  It is our hope that the hotel will fully cooperate with the investigation into these events to avoid any similar tragedies in the future.”

All three stayed in Room 225 at the hotel. The room directly above the storage room that housed the natural gas heater for the enclosed pool and pool chemicals. The mother of boy also suffered symptoms of asphyxiation but survived.

Appalachian Hospitality Management operates the Best Western Plus Blue Ridge Parkway. The hotel released a statement that reads in part " The hotel will remain closed as we work closely with authorities to address any issues identified and authorities declare the hotel cleared for occupancy."

The company declined further comment but say their thoughts and prayers went to the victim's families and friends.

A Watauga Health inspector ordered the Best Western Plus in Boone to fix ventilation problems "ASAP" on March 6, just weeks before the elderly couple died and months before the 11-year-old boy died in the same room.

NBC Charlotte has learned that the same health inspector who found the ventilation problem was on site and performed CPR on one of the first victims back in April.

The health department says it was "serendipitous", as inspectors were at the Best Western Plus performing a different inspection.

Administrators with the Watauga County Health Department say their inspector never connected carbon monoxide to the ventilation problem.

They continued that checking carbon monoxide levels and combustible gases are not part of their inspection process. In this case, the health department's responsibility was to inspect the ventilation system of the pool chemicals housed in a storage room that shared space with the natural gas heater.

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