Back in April, Shirley and Daryl Jenkins, an elderly couple from Washington state, died in their room at the Best Western Plus Blue Ridge Plaza in Boone. The cause? Carbon monoxide poisoning. Earlier this month, Jeffrey Williams, an 11-year-old boy from South Carolina staying in the very same room, also died from CO poisoning. Well, now we know that all three deaths were the result of a criminal act. Yesterday, Boone town inspectors revealed the source of the CO leak was a malfunctioning indoor pool heater--one that installed without a permit.
Incredibly, though, town officials are holding out the prospect that this hotel may reopen. Sorry, that's not acceptable. The hotel's manager, Appalachian Property Management, also operates four other hotels in the area. Help me tell town officials that this company must never be allowed to run hotels in Boone again.
The heater was located one floor below the room where Jeffrey and the Jenkinses died, and two floors below where 10 girls were sickened at a sleepover party three days after the Jenkinses died. Watauga County health officials inspected the heater in March and found serious deficiencies that the inspector said needed to be fixed immediately. Apparently said fixes never occurred, because the state had inspected the heater after Jeffrey's death and found it had been improperly installed. And now we know Appalachian Property Management didn't even bother to get a permit for the heater in the first place.
The hotel is currently closed. And yet, Bill Bailey, the director of building inspections for the town, has suggested this hotel might be allowed to reopen.
Bailey said the department sent a letter on Friday to Best Western representatives requesting proof of any permits issued and information about any work conducted without a permit. By law, Best Western has 30 days to respond to the letter.
Bailey then expects Best Western to be placed in violation by the town, and a hearing will be held. Bailey said the hotel would likely be given the option to repair the facility rather than it being condemned.
Bailey can't possibly be serious. This company knew about these problems back in March, and didn't bother to get them fixed. And as a result, not only are three people dead, but 11 people that we know about--Jeffrey's mom and the 10 girls who attended the sleepover--have been sickened.
Appalachian Property Management operates four other hotels in Boone--a Sleep Inn, a Country Inn and Suites, a Super 8 and a La Quinta. Neither of these hotels should be allowed to operate under the management of a company that is a clear and present danger to the safety of their guests and their employees.
I started a petition asking Bailey to tell Appalachian Property Management that it can never be allowed to run hotels in Boone again. Sign here.