EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSCO REPORT
from Eyewitness News Online
Report Issued About Deadly CO Leak At Hotel
Reported by: Kallie Cart
Web Producer: Kallie Cart
Reported: Feb. 21, 2012 12:16 PM EST
Updated: Feb. 21, 2012 6:33 PM EST
South Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
The report on a deadly carbon monoxide leak has been released. The report doesn't place any blame but does have some surprising finds.
It appears the problem had been building for more than a decade, when the Holiday Inn Express in South Charleston was first built. Investigators say a pipe connected to the indoor pool's heating unit, that goes up four floors and then turns to the outside to release carbon monoxide, wasn't installed properly.
"The pipe was manipulated to join another pipe into it," South Charleston Fire Captain Virgil White says, he was among those conducting the investigation.
Since the install, investigators say the pipe was untouched until December of last year when the heater went bad. Investigators believe sometime while the new heater was being installed, the pipe was jarred and vibrations from the unit over the next few weeks finally made it burst open, releasing carbon monoxide gas that built inside the wall for a few days until it became deadly on January 31st. That's when the carbon monoxide killed one guest, critically injured another and made more than a dozen others sick.
In the report it is revealed that three parties had access to the unit. Company JP Mechanical was called in to inspect the heater and told the hotel it needed replaced. A maintenance worker had also accessed the area. Finally the hotel hired Steve Combs with Premier Pools, LLC to install a new heater.
He told Eyewitness News in an exclusive interview, he didn't install the heater, he merely finished a job.
"We were there and we did put a new filter in there and change some of the plumbing around and that's really all we did," Combs said earlier this month.
But the investigaton shows an invoice where he charged the hotel $1,500 for the install job.
You can see on pictures provided in the report that during the instalation a piece of the pipe was replaced.
The investigation also revealed that Combs didn't have a license to do commercial work, only residential and he has a cease and desist order from the Department of Labor to stop working.
Investigators also say Combs didn't read the instruction manual for installing the unit. They also say he was working without the required permits. With those permits, the city would have inspected his work.
"I feel through our proper inspection channel that we do, it could have been caught and we could have avoided this situation," Captain White says.
Combs referred our questions to his attorney who hasn't returned our calls. He did say the cease and desist order was from the 1990s because he owed money and therefore his license wasn't renewed. But he says he kept working to pay his bills and his wife then opened Premier Pools, LLC.
No one is being blamed in the report, so there are no punishments or penalties, but civil lawsuits are likely to come from the report.
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