ASHEVILLE — Six years almost to the day after an 11-year-old boy was found dead in the Best Western hotel in Boone — with two others dead just weeks before — due to carbon monoxide poisoning, police in Asheville are investigating seemingly similar deaths of two men staying in a Best Western hotel.
At approximately 11:55 a.m. on June 8, the Asheville Police Department responded to the Best Western at 501 Tunnel Road in Asheville for a report of two people found unresponsive, according to Assistant to the Asheville Chief of Police Jerri Jameson. Upon arrival, officers located two men deceased — Jacob Bruton Galloway, 28, of Troy, and James Patrick Landreth, 39, of Southern Pines.
The Asheville Citizen Times cites a search warrant filed by APD’s Detective Jason Hunter in the incident. The media outlet quoted Hunter as stating in the warrant, “Due to recent events involving deaths at hotels due to carbon monoxide, Asheville Fire Department was contacted for air quality monitoring.”
“AFD was called to the scene for both patient care and for air monitoring,” stated Asheville Fire Department spokesperson Kelley Klope. “The CO readings performed by AFD at the scene were not elevated at the time of testing.”
When asked if the Asheville Police Department was looking into carbon monoxide poisoning as a potential cause of death, Jameson said the police department “is not ruling out anything as we await the final autopsy and toxicology reports.”
As a result of 2013 deaths linked to carbon monoxide in Boone, the N.C. General Assembly passed legislation requiring the installation of CO alarms in new and existing lodging establishments, Klope said. Fire code officials started including new codes regarding CO in the annual inspections of lodging establishments effective as of June 2014.
Klope added that this particular Best Western location did have the required carbon monoxide alarms. Additionally, a fire inspection for this location was performed in June 2018 and again this year based on an inspection schedule — there were no documented citations for CO-related issues, according to Klope.
The Asheville Citizen Times stated that Asheville Fire Chief Shane Mackey had investigated a utility room at the Best Western that was located directly behind and below the room that Galloway and Landreth were found. According to the news outlet, the search warrant stated that the utility room had two hot water heaters, two air heaters and an exhaust pipe that was not vented to the outside of the building.
Mackey was cited as stating that if carbon monoxide was leaking from the utility closet, the poisonous gas would be found in Galloway and Landreth’s hotel room. Klope said that the information she had stated that the units in the utility room were properly ventilated.
Preliminary autopsies were completed and toxicology reports were requested, Jameson said. She said toxicology reports may take six to eight months to complete, and results are pending and the investigation remains ongoing.
If linked to carbon monoxide, this is a story that the people of Boone know all too well.
Daryl Jenkins, 73, and Shirley Jenkins, 72, died April 16, 2013, while staying in the Best Western in Boone. The two were from Washington state. On June 8, 2013, 11-year-old Jeffrey Lee Williams also died in the same hotel room that the Jenkins stayed in; Williams’ mother, Jeannie Williams, was hospitalized.
Police determined that all three deaths were caused by elevated carbon monoxide levels in the room, originating with a faulty pool water heater and exhaust system.
Jameson said the Asheville fire chief assisted with the investigation in Boone and “made several suggestions based on that investigation that have been taken into consideration.”
This story is developing. Check www.wataugademocrat.com for updates.