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Executive indicted in N.C. hotel guests' carbon monoxide deaths

Jan. 8, 2014 at 7:14 PM   |   Comments

BOONE, N.C., Jan. 8 (UPI) -- A North Carolina hotel executive was indicted on involuntary manslaughter charges Wednesday in the 2013 carbon monoxide deaths of three guests.

A grand jury charged Damon Mallatere, 50, president of Appalachian Hospitality Management, with three manslaughter counts in the deaths at the Best Western in Boone and one of assault inflicting serious bodily injury for a fourth hotel guest who also was poisoned but survived, the Charlotte Observer reported.

Authorities concluded carbon monoxide from the hotel's swimming pool water heater seeped up from a corroded exhaust pipe into Room 225 in April, killing Daryl and Shirley Jenkins of Washington state and 11-year-old Jeffrey Williams of York County in June. The boy's mother, Jeannie, suffered serious injuries.

An attorney for Mallatere said his client was "extremely disappointed" the grand jury indicted him rather than a gas company that converted the pool heater from propane to natural gas.

"Based on expert evaluation of the pool heater following the tragic deaths, it appears the conversion was not properly performed, and this led directly to extremely high levels of carbon monoxide being produced by the pool heater," attorney Paul Culpepper said.

Culpepper said Appalachian Hospitality found other appliances at other hotels were also improperly installed and he suspects other businesses in Boone could have the same issues.

"The police department knows about this and nobody's made any warning to the public," he said.

Police Capt. Andy Le Beau said he had passed that information to town inspectors and believes they are following up.

The Williams family said in a statement it hopes the criminal case "will serve as a staunch reminder for future generations of decision-makers in similar cases that the public's safety is of paramount concern." The family said it wants to ensure others don't have to go through "this same needless and absolutely avoidable tragedy."

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