BOONE: NC board sheds new light on motel deaths - CBS 5 - KPHO

NC board sheds new light on Boone motel deaths

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Three people died from carbon monoxide poisoning in the same Boone motel room. Three people died from carbon monoxide poisoning in the same Boone motel room.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -

A North Carolina board deciding whether to suspend or revoke the license of a contractor has shed new light on errors that led to three people dying from carbon monoxide poisoning in the same Boone motel room.

The State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating & Fire Sprinkler Contractors held a contractor accountable for an inspection that failed to find a heavily-corroded pipe leaking carbon monoxide from a water heater in the motel's pool. The same board has filed a complaint against another contractor that a state inspector said converted the pool heater from propane to natural gas despite instructions that explicitly said that should not be done, according to a transcript of the May hearing obtained by The Charlotte Observer.

The former manager of the Best Western where the deaths happened, Damon Mallatere, is charged with involuntary manslaughter for acting carelessly or recklessly in the deaths of 73-year-old Daryle Jenkins and his 72-year-old wife Shirley, of Longview, Washington., in April 2013, and the death of 11-year-old Jeffrey Williams, of Rock Hill., South Carolina, about a month later in the same room.

But Mallatere's lawyer Dudley Witt said the testimony before the board shows his client is not guilty.

Motel maintenance supervisor Harold Robinson said that Mallatere asked contractor Dale Winkler to inspect for gas leaks or a stopped up exhaust pipe after the first two deaths. Winkler testified he examined the heater and found no gas leaks, then went outside and felt warm air coming from the exhaust pipe and concluded it wasn't clogged. He said he told Robinson the motel would have to hire an engineer to test for carbon monoxide, and at the time, authorities thought the deaths were from a pair of heart attacks, not from the poisonous, odorless gas.

Other testimony showed Mallatere asked his workers to not rent the room to anyone else unless the motel was full until the cause of the couple's death was certain. But the mother of the third victim complained about a cigarette smell in the first room they were given, so a clerk moved them to the room where the boy died.

The board suspended Winkler's license for at least a year. He is still being allowed to work as he appeals the ruling.

In September, the board will also hear a complaint against Thomas Miller, a contractor with Independence Oil & Gas that converted the pool heater from propane to natural gas.

The hearing also showed the poor condition of the exhaust pipe, which was corroded with gaping holes, likely caused by the chlorine used in the pool, according to testimony from Dale Dawson, executive director of the Board of Examiners.

The pipe was hidden behind a dropped ceiling, and photos taken after the three deaths showed an ice bucket propped up under one pipe and a videotape propping the elbow fitting on another pipe.

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