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N.C. DHHS: No Agency Employees ‘Erred’ Regarding Carbon Monoxide Deaths at Best Western in Boone

By Jesse Wood

Aug. 13, 2013. A spokesman with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services told the Charlotte Observer that his agency believes no state agency employees “erred” during the investigations into the three carbon monoxide deaths at the Best Western Plus in Boone earlier this year.

This determination comes two months after DHHS Director Aldona Wos said these tragedies “should have never happened” and noted that her department was conducting its own inquiry into how state employees performed in their duties connected to the toxicology reports of the three individuals who died in Room 225 at the Best Western: Shirley Jenkins, 72, and Daryl Jenkins, 73, on April 16 and Jeffrey Williams, 11, on June 8. 

The N.C. Office of Chief Medical Examiner, which is under the umbrella of the DHHS, appoints local medical examiners, although they are not considered state employees.

Dr. Brent Hall, the local medical examiner who performed the autopsies on Williams and the Jenkinses, requested toxicological analysis of the Jenkinses in mid April. While he listed a probable cause of death as an overdose and did not visit the death scene, he did specifically request an analysis for carbon monoxide toxicity from the N.C. Office of Chief Medical Examiner for the couple who died at the same time.

Results of Shirley Jenkins’ death weren’t sent to Hall until June 1, according to Ricky Diaz, a spokesman with DHHS.

One week after the results came back stating that carbon monoxide toxicity was the cause of death in Room 225, Williams died in the same room.

Diaz couldn’t answer to High Country Press why authorities weren’t notified before Williams died in that room, saying that would be a question for Hall, who resigned in June and hasn’t been reached for comment since the investigations began.

In the brief statement to Charlotte Observer absolving the state department of any wrong doing, Diaz said DHHS’ direct involvement into the deaths was limited to processing the specimens submitted to the state’s toxicology lab and reiterated a pathologists’ ability to request toxicological results “stat.”

In June, Diaz told High Country Press that his office didn’t expedite the results of the Jenkinses because cause of death was listed as an overdose. 

Read the Charlotte Observer story here that has a sub-header that reads “Six Weeks vs. 20 Minutes,” referring to the time it took the state to release toxicological results of the Jenkinses and the time it actually takes to perform the analysis.

For more background on the carbon monoxide deaths at the Best Western, click here