The tragic deaths of a married couple and an 11-year-old boy in a Boone motel room could have been prevented, according to a report from the News & Observer.
Daryl Jenkins, 73, and Shirley Jenkins, 72, were found dead in a second-floor room of the Best Western in April. In June, 11-year-old Jeffrey Williams was found dead in the same room. His mother was hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning. Investigators now believe that the deaths were related to a pool heater located directly below the room as well as the absence of carbon monoxide detectors in rooms with natural gas fireplaces.
The pool heating unit had been moved from another location – something strongly discouraged by pool industry experts – and installed without a proper permit or inspection required to have such a heater. The heater’s owner’s manual “strongly recommends” that users install carbon monoxide detectors around the unit and cautions that failing to do so could result in “severe injury or death” from exposure to the gas.
The N&O also reported that fire officials and the medical examiner failed to immediately test for carbon monoxide poisoning after the Jenkins’ death. Results of a test sent to the state by the Watauga County medical examiner were not received until June 1, and no apparent action was taken. The report arrived one week before Jeffrey Williams died.
Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and can cause severe illness or death in mere minutes. Legislation passed by the General Assembly last month will require hotels to have carbon monoxide detectors in every enclosed space with a fossil-fuel-burning heater or fireplace as well as every hotel room that shares a wall with those spaces. The requirements do not go into effect until October.
Boone police are currently working on an investigative report they will submit to the Watauga County District Attorney. No charges have currently been filed.