May 24, 2014 -- A South Carolina mother whose son died from noxious gas poisoning inside the so-called “poison hotel room” has launched a foundation with her family to get carbon monoxide detectors in every home and hotel room.
“What it means to me the most is just to get information to people of the importance of having detectors,” Jeannie Williams told ABC News. “If you have any kind of gas appliance or heating, detectors should be there to be safe and protect your family.”
In June 2013, Williams and her 11-year-old son Jeffrey Williams, from Rock Hill, S.C., were incapacitated by carbon monoxide while staying in Room 225 at the Blue Ridge Plaza Best Western Hotel in Boone, N.C.. Jeffrey died from the noxious gas poisoning.
The state launched an investigation after the young boy’s death and discovered that an elderly couple who had died while staying in Room 225 a few weeks before the Williams’ stay also had lethal levels of carbon monoxide in their blood. The case around the “poison hotel room” gained national attention.
Investigators eventually determined that the hotel pool heater's exhaust pipe was damaged and said it was leaking lethal levels of carbon monoxide from its location in the drop ceiling just below Room 225.
Hotel manager Damon Mallatare has since been charged with three counts of involuntary manslaughter for the deaths and with assault inflicting serious bodily injury for harming Jeannie. Mallatare said he had no knowledge of the damaged pipe until the state's investigation and pleaded not guilty. Three other employees of Mallatare’s hotel management company have also been barred from plumbing, heating or fire sprinkler contracting work by a Superior Court judge.
As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, The Jeffrey Lee Williams Foundation’s launch marks a milestone in the Williams’ family saga since last year's tragedy.
“Since Jeffrey's death we received letters from people all over the country who have had similar instances where they've lost loved ones due to carbon monoxide in hotel rooms,” Jeffrey’s father Jeffrey Williams Sr. told ABC News. “It's my duty to make sure that his short life that was cut short by numerous people's negligence, that his father puts the effort into make sure that other people don't have to deal with the same thing.”
Through her family’s work, Jeanne Williams said the University of South Carolina in Columbia is equipping each of their dorm rooms with detectors.
Williams said she and her family also have plans to speak at public events in the future, including the South Carolina State Fire Marshal Conference.
“We still have lots more to do,” she said. “I just know that Jeffrey would be excited about it and would have wanted the same thing, to support this if it had happened to someone else.”
The Jeffrey Lee Williams Foundation plans to soon begin accepting donations at www.jeffreysfoundation.org.