Health Department issues statement about CO deaths in hotel

Relatives ask for answers in Boone motel deaths
Published: Jun. 9, 2013 at 3:55 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 16, 2013 at 12:03 PM EDT
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Jeffery Williams, 11 (Source: Greene Funeral Home)
Jeffery Williams, 11 (Source: Greene Funeral Home)

BOONE, NC (WBTV) - The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has issued a statement after a preteen from South Carolina and an elderly couple visiting Boone died from carbon monoxide poisoning in the same hotel room two months apart.

"My heartfelt condolences go out to the families and loved ones of Shirley and Daryl Jenkins, and young Jeffrey Williams," said Health Department Secretary Aldona Wos on Sunday.

"These deaths were a tragedy that should have never happened. The Department of Health and Human Services is continuing to gather the facts. I have instructed my staff to work with local officials to identify measures to ensure tragedies like this never happen again."

On Friday, a source from the NC Department of Health and Human Services confirmed to WBTV News that Dr. Brent Hall, the pathologist in Boone who performed the autopsies on Daryl and Shirley Jenkins has resigned his post.

Documents uncovered by WBTV News show the NC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner discovered two weeks ago that carbon monoxide poisoning may have killed 72-year-old Shirley Mae Jenkins.

That was seven days before 11-year old Jeffrey Williams died from CO exposure while staying in the same room at the Best Western Hotel in Boone.

According to officials in Raleigh, the results of that test were sent to the pathologist in Watauga County who was investigating the deaths.

We don't know why those results were not passed on to local fire or police investigators.

It's also unclear if the Best Western was notified of the potential danger in room 225.

Tests have now also confirmed Jenkins husband Daryl also died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

State medical officials say a preteen from Rock Hill had high levels of carbon monoxide in his system after he died in a hotel room in Boone last weekend.

The levels are consistent with levels found in an elderly couple who died in the same room at the Best Western Hotel in Boone two months ago.

The results came back late Thursday from the State Medical Examiner's Office.

According to the results, 11-year-old Jeffery Williams had a blood concentration of carbon monoxide was greater than 60 percent. Medical officials noted that these CO levels would have caused the asphyxia, which was noted as Williams' cause of death in his autopsy.

Officials say this level of concentration is consistent with the levels found in both Daryl and Shirley Jenkins, a couple in their 70s who died in the same room back in April.

On Wednesday, state and federal inspectors say they traced the source of a carbon monoxide leak to a pool water heater room directly under room 225, where Williams and the Jenkins died.

Fire investigators say the exhaust was being pulled back into the room from a wall mounted vent for the room's HVAC unit.

They also said the ventilation system had several deficiencies as well as corrosion.

According to investigators, Williams body was found Saturday. Jeffrey's mother, 49-year-old Jeannie Williams, was taken to the hospital for treatment.

During the emergency medical response, a presumptive test indicated an elevated level of carbon monoxide in the room, officials told WBTV.

The hotel was evacuated and assistance was requested from North Carolina Emergency Management and the North Carolina Public Health Preparedness and Response Branch.

Samples from Williams were sent to the Office of the State Medical Examiner for toxicological analysis.

Investigators say the bodies of Daryl and Shirley Jenkins were found in the same room back on April 16.

Family members say they waited weeks for test results to come back, but on Monday confirmed that the Jenkins, who were in their early 70's, died from carbon monoxide toxicity.

The couple was visiting from Washington, family members say, and were in Boone for a family reunion.

Family members say if the tests hadn't taken so long, the problem that caused their deaths could have been fixed or the room remained closed so no one, including the boy who died, could stay there.

Investigators said they had been requesting the results from the State Medical Examiner's office for weeks but got no response.

State inspectors arrived at the hotel on Wednesday morning around 10 a.m.

According to documents from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the pool permit was suspended on March 6. One problem listed in the report was that the chemical/equipment room was required to have natural cross ventilation or forced air ventilation.

"This needs to be corrected ASAP," the report states. WBTV has learned that the pool permit has since been re-instated, but can find no records of the problem being fixed.

By pure coincidence, the same health inspector who inspected the pool on March 6th, was at the hotel when the elderly couple was found and helped perform CPR.

Beth Lovette, the director of the Appalachian Regional Health District office said Tuesday when her inspectors looked at that pool room they were only concerned about the pool chemicals.

Lovette said her inspector did not look at any appliances in the room and did not check about combustible or poisonous gases that may be coming from that equipment. That was not part of the health department inspector's duties, she said.

The heater in question hasn't been inspected since the hotel was built in 2000.

Officials say there is nothing that requires the heater to be reinspected, but state licensing experts and one from the consumer product safety commission are looking at it now

Though the report was dated March 6, 2013, health officials could not say if the ventilation work was ever done. "We have not received any paperwork back from the hotel," said Lovette.

According to police officials, the police department has been in contact with the District Attorney's Office and police have not ruled out possible charges.

Carbon monoxide detectors are not required in hotels in North Carolina. The hotel remains closed and under the control of investigators.

Investigators ask that anyone that stayed in room 225, contact the Boone Police Department at 828-268-6900 or email Sgt. Matt Stevens at

A memorial service for 11-year-old Jeffrey Williams will be held in Rock Hill on Sunday at First Baptist Church on Dave Lyle Boulevard at 2:00 pm. The burial will be private.

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