NEW ORLEANS -- Family members of three tourists who died while staying at an Airbnb in Mexico City, apparently of carbon monoxide poisoning, urged the short-term rental company Thursday to require detectors in properties it lists to prevent future tragedies.
“Our main goal is to try to get the word out to those planning to use short-term rentals like Airbnb,” said Jennifer Marshall, whose son, Jordan Marshall, was one of the travelers. “We want to put pressure on Airbnb to regulate and mandate carbon monoxide detectors going forward. It's the only way we could think of to honor our children."
Lawyer L. Chris Stewart of the Atlanta-based firm Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys also said a wrongful death lawsuit is planned against Airbnb and others as a result of the incident.
“We're asking Airbnb to mandate that all of their listings have detectors,” he said. “They've created international and national bans on parties, on weapons, on cameras. They could easily mandate carbon monoxide detectors too. They know they've been killing people in their rentals. We know of at least three other cases.”
Stewart said however that they are awaiting information from investigators in Mexico to determine “all the defendants” before filing the suit.
The three travelers who died Oct. 30 were Kandace Florence, 28, of Virginia Beach, Virginia; her longtime friend, Jordan Marshall, 28, who was also from Virginia Beach but was teaching in New Orleans; and Courtez Hall, 33, of New Orleans, who also taught in the city. They visited the country for Day of the Dead and were staying at the vacation rental in an upscale part of Mexico City.
According to news reports, Florence contacted her boyfriend back in the States to say she was feeling sick, and he contacted her Airbnb host to go check on them. Authorities later found all three dead.
In a statement, Airbnb said it has suspended the listing and canceled upcoming reservations pending investigation of the incident.
“This is a terrible tragedy and our thoughts are with the families and loved ones as they grieve such an unimaginable loss. Our priority right now is supporting those impacted as the authorities investigate what happened, and we stand ready to assist with their inquiries however we can,” the company said.
Airbnb said it has not yet confirmed that carbon monoxide exposure was responsible for the deaths but noted that it operates a global program making free smoke and carbon monoxide detectors available to hosts, more than 200,000 of which have been ordered so far.
Airbnb said it is also working with Mexican officials to promote safety practices among hosts and is updating its detector program to expedite shipments in the country.
It added that the site lets prospective guests filter their searches for hosts who report having detectors, and flags any bookings where there are none.
Jennifer Marshall said she hoped her son's and his friend's deaths will be a cautionary tale for other travelers.
“We want people to rethink how they vacation,” Marshall said. “Even if we can't get any action from Airbnb, which would be disappointing, we're hoping this brings awareness to many. If we can't depend on corporations to prioritize safety for its customers, we have to make sure we do it for ourselves.”
Freida Florence, Kandace's mother, said shining a light on Airbnb's “shortcomings” is a priority.
“We're asking people to take precautions,” she said. “They don't obligate or require their hosts to guarantee a carbon monoxide detector, and they should. Doing so could truly save lives. We don't want any other families to experience what we've experienced.”
Florence also called for people to urge lawmakers to help address the issue.
“Our companies know better and should do better,” she said.