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February 10, 2015 at 10:18 AM

Washington couple’s family sues over poisoning deaths at N.C. motel

The Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The family of a Washington state couple who died of carbon monoxide poisoning while guests at a North Carolina motel is suing the property’s owners, a contractor who worked on a faulty pool heater and others.

Lawyers for the family of Daryl and Shirley Jenkins of the Longview said Tuesday a series of equipment failures and human errors created the conditions that caused their deaths.

The lawsuit filed Monday in state court in Charlotte names motel chain Best Western International, its local franchisee in Boone, a company accused of botching the pool heater’s conversion from propane to natural gas, and a heating contractor that failed to correct problems with venting the heater’s exhaust gases.

Carbon monoxide from the pool heater system infiltrated a room on the floor above at the Boone Best Western, killing the Jenkinses in April 2013 and 11-year-old Jeffrey Williams of Rock Hill, S.C., about a month later. The boy’s mother, Jeannie Williams, was also poisoned but survived.

A North Carolina regulatory board in November suspended the license of the heating contractor who converted the pool heater from propane to natural gas in violation of the manufacturer’s instructions.

The owner of the company that managed the motel, Damon Mallatere, was indicted last year on three charges of involuntary manslaughter and one charge of assault inflicting serious bodily injury.

The case also featured lapses by government officials.

Fire officials failed to test the motel room above the heater for carbon monoxide after the April deaths of Daryle Jenkins, 73, and Shirley Mae Jenkins, 72. The local medical examiner did not ask that toxicology results on their blood be expedited, so it took about six weeks to return tests results for the couple. Neither the state nor local medical examiners warned the motel’s owners, Boone police or fire officials of the danger after toxicology tests showed lethal levels of carbon monoxide.

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