Police: Pool water heater cited in NC motel deaths

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A faulty pool water heater was the source of carbon monoxide that killed an 11-year-old boy at a North Carolina motel last weekend and a couple who slept in the same room about two months earlier, police said Wednesday.

Plumbing and other investigators who looked look through the Best Western Plus Blue Ridge Plaza pointed to the water heater located beneath room 225 as the source of the killer gas, Boone police said in a statement.

"The exhaust system for the pool water heater had multiple deficiencies," police said. The deadly gas from the faulty water heater was able to seep into the room through an opening under the gas fireplace unit and the wall-mounted heating and air-conditioning unit, police said.

Carbon monoxide killed Jeffrey Williams, 11, of Rock Hill, S.C., on Saturday. His 49-year-old mother, Jeannie Williams, was rushed to a hospital and survived. That came nearly two months after carbon monoxide in the same room killed 73-year-old Daryl Dean Jenkins and 72-year-old Shirley Mae Jenkins of Longview, Wash.

A voice mail message left Wednesday at the offices of Appalachian Hospitality Management, which runs the motel, was not returned. A man answering the phone Tuesday told The Associated Press that company executives were referring questions to the Boone police.

Local health inspectors checked the motel pool six weeks before anyone died, but the scope of their review didn't include investigating for the poisonous gas by checking the water heater, the Appalachian District Health Department said in a statement Tuesday.

During a March 6 inspection, a health inspector noted that the motel violated a safety rule requiring ventilation of storage rooms where pool chemicals are stored. The statement quoted the inspector's report as saying the room's ventilation problem "needs to be corrected asap."

The motel was not fined and did not face other consequences, but the chemical storage was to be revisited at the next inspection, health department spokeswoman Jennifer Greene said in an email to The AP. Inspections are conducted at least twice a year, Greene said.

The motel has been closed by police and investigators want who stayed in the room to contact them by calling 828-268-6900 or emailing Sgt. Matt Stevens at matt.stevens(at)townofboone.net.


Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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