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‘To Better Understand The Tragic Incidents’ At Best Western, Health Department To Hold Press Conference

By Jesse Wood

June 11, 2013. The Watauga County Health Department will hold a press conference “to better understand the tragic incidents occurring at he Best Western Plus Blue Ridge Plaza,” according to a briefing about the upcoming press conference.

The conference begins at 2 p.m. in the upstairs conference room at the health department.

ADHDIn March, an inspector with the Watauga County Health Department ordered the Best Western to correct its ventilation system in the chemical and equipment room of the hotel’s pool immediately.  

According to the inspection report dated March 6, the “Chemical/Equipment room is required to have natural cross ventilation or forced air ventilation. This needs to be corrected ASAP. Consult inspector prior to making any installations.”

A month after that report was issued, two lodgers from Washington were found dead on April 16 in Room 225, lying next to each other with a cell phone nearby, and last weekend, an 11-year-old boy from South Carolina was found dead with his mother, who was then transported to Watauga Medical Center, unconscious. The mother is now in stable condition, according to a spokesperson at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.

They also stayed in Room 225, which is situated above a natural gas heater for the hotel’s swimming pool.

It’s unclear if this ventilation problem contributed to the elevated levels of carbon monoxide found in the hotel room.

At the press conference on Monday evening with Boone Police Chief Dana Crawford and Boone Fire Chief Jimmy Isaacs, a reporter asked, “Does anyone know if [the faulty ventilation] was corrected?”

Crawford and Isaacs said they were unaware of any reports or prior inspections involving the health department ordering the Best Western to correct the problem and deferred those questions to the Appalachian District Health Department.

Isaacs and Crawford were then asked, “Why isn’t the health department here?”

Crawford and Isaacs couldn’t answer that question either.

Throughout the recent investigation the Watauga County Health Department has assisted local authorities. It even issued a press release hours before the press conference about its assistance in the investigation, however that release contained no information about any prior inspection.

In the past few days, the Watauga County Health Department has remained mum on the issues at hand, and it is unclear yet whether Best Western fixed the ventilation problem and if a follow up inspection was performed.

Officials at the Watauga County Health Department will answer questions and provide an updated release at the news conference at 2 p.m. 

For more details about the deaths in the hotel, click here