A Nashville restaurateur who was found dead in a walk-in refrigerator died of suffocation from carbon dioxide inside, and was likely overcome by the gas in a matter of minutes, the Nashville medical examiner ruled today.
Jay Luther, 47, was found dead Monday morning in the cooler of the Germantown East Cafe. Luther, who was co-owner of the cafe, pressed a burglar alarm in the cooler that called police to the scene.
There were no signs of foul play, police said.
The restaurant had been closed for the weekend because of a planned power outage. Dry ice -- frozen carbon dioxide -- had been used to keep food cool for the weekend, police said.
When Luther went to check on the food Sunday night, he became trapped. The internal latch had been malfunctioning before the weekend, police said.
The restaurateur didn't have his cellphone, but he tripped the burglar alarm in the cooler, hoping officers would come to free him.
Three officers and one sergeant arrived within five minutes of the call, but did not investigate after "they found the building to be dark and all doors secure."
"Given that the restaurant was totally secured and closed, and given that electrical surges have been known to cause errant alarms, the officers elected not to force their way into the restaurant. The alarm call was coded as false," the department said in a statement.
Nashville police Chief Steve Anderson has ordered a review of police response to the incident.
Luther was remembered as an "awesome guy" and was "very well loved," Jay Allis, the kitchen manager at the restaurant, told ABC News' Nashville affiliate WKRN.
A recording at the Germantown East Cafe said it would remain closed for "an indeterminate amount of time due to a tragedy in out Germantown Cafe family."