Stonegate Lodge Eureka Springs Arkansas Evacuated

The Stonegate Lodge in Eureka Springs, Arkansas is the latest in a long line of public spaces that has been hit by the avoidable catastrophe that is carbon monoxide poisoning. 

By Rebecca Martin and Attorney Gordon Johnson

Just as we were getting ready to follow up to our last blog regarding the deaths of 21 teenagers in an East London, South African tavern, another hotel was evacuated for Carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Stonegate Lodge carbon monoxide poisoning

Each week there is seemingly another tragic case of carbon monoxide poisoning. This week it is the Stonegate Lodge in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

At just before 7 a.m. Saturday morning, the Eureka Springs Fire Department was called to the Stonegate Lodge. They evaluated 24 people at the scene and 10 were transported to the hospital for emergency care. Four of the more seriously injured were airlifted to nearby hospitals equipped with hyperbaric chambers for treatment. The Fire Department was able to confirm that it was a carbon monoxide leak. No further information was made available and an investigation is ongoing. https://www.kait8.com/2022/07/17/several-hospitalized-after-carbon-monoxide-leak-eureka-springs-ark-hotel/ 

Generator Possible in South African Tragedy

On our concerns about the South African tragedy, while the owner and two employees of the Enyobeni Tavern face criminal charges for allegedly selling alcohol to minors [m1], the media is only hinting to the clues of what happened that tragic night. However, relevant information is surfacing that support  our suspicions that carbon monoxide may have been the culprit. 

An article out of Capetown suggests that a petrol generator may have been present at the scene and that “An independent forensic pathologist says there is a possibility that carbon monoxide may have led to the deaths of 21 young people at Enyobeni Tavern.” https://ewn.co.za/2022/06/30/carbon-monoxide-may-have-caused-enyobeni-tavern-deaths-paul-o-sullivan

Last week, the smell was our first clue, even though carbon monoxide itself is odorless.  Several victims at the scene described an odor emanating from the floor after the power came back on which suggests that they might have been smelling incomplete combustion from the generator initially. The Eastern Cape Health Department is evidently handling the testing of autopsy samples to confirm whether carbon monoxide was the cause of death. 

Investigations Must Inform the Causes of CO

Much like the carbon monoxide poisoning of four guests at the Sandals Resort in the Bahamas, not enough interest has been focused on the causes of these incidents. The incident at the Sandals Resort has been described as the result of some isolated incident. That should give us pause. The deaths of three people and serious injury of another would should demand clarity as to what conditions led to this “isolated” incident. 

All we can do is continue to search for answers which could prevent future incidents of these types. 

One question we continue to be asked is why the hospitality industry continues to make headlines? Neglect, greed and incompetence are the consistent themes.

Stonegate Lodge Type Poisoning Too Frequent

Shifting back to the Stonegate Lodge in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, while the source of the carbon monoxide has not officially released, a statement by Gary Inman of the Eureka Springs Fire Department would point to a fuel burning appliance.

”It’s very unusual because most gas-related systems are very safe and reliable,” https://www.kait8.com/2022/07/17/several-hospitalized-after-carbon-monoxide-leak-eureka-springs-ark-hotel/

Inman stresses “this” is not something which happens frequently. Perhaps from the view of one small town fire department, it may not seem frequently, but from our vantage point, it is happening seemingly every time we get set to write a blog.  The statistics back this up:

“From January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2018, 905 guests were poisoned in 115 identified incidents, including 22 fatalities. Children represented 16% of those poisoned and 27% of fatalities. Type of lodgings were hotels, motels, and resorts of all classes and located in a majority of states. Most poisonings were caused by natural gas fueled appliances and could likely have been prevented by an in-room carbon monoxide alarm.” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301469

Keep in mind when you read these stories, that for every person who dies, there is likely 20 who suffered permanent brain damage from carbon monoxide poisoning. Hotel guests often mistake their symptoms for something else and then check out before noon. While they may feel better with fresh air, that doesn’t mean that the carbon monoxide isn’t continuing to attack their brains. Yet, as they have checked out, the existence of the poisoning may go undiscovered until something more tragic draws the attention. Hotel poisonings are rarely isolated. If the levels don’t get to the point that people are found unconscious in the room by housekeeping, the poisoning just continues.

One way to ensure your safety while traveling is to carry a portable carbon monoxide detector with you when you travel. These can be battery-operated or plug-in. A plug-in requires a suitable adaptor if traveling abroad. There is a good guide to available portable carbon monoxide detectors at https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/portable-carbon-monoxide-detector/ It is important to purchase one that is not only reliable but that lets you know that it is powered up and in working order. This small device should become a staple when traveling. The Chicago Tribune also lists its top five rated co detectors for 2022 at https://reviews.chicagotribune.com/reviews/best-carbon-monoxide-detectors While Best Reviews lists their top ten at https://www.bestreviews.guide/portable-carbon-monoxide-detector?

While approximately 430 fatalities and 50,000 emergency room visits due to carbon monoxide poisoning occur in the United States annually according to the CDC, globally carbon monoxide incidents impact around a million people and are responsible for around 42,000 deaths. Precise statistics do not exist because of the lack of adequate reporting.

“The unreliability of the primary data sources in many countries with respect to accurate diagnosis of CO poisoning means that caution is required, and that field studies, particularly in poorer countries, are required. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/337672767_Worldwide_epidemiology_of_carbon_monoxide_poisoning

Why Aren’t Carbon Monoxide Alarms More Effective?

In theory, carbon monoxide deaths and injuries should be on the decline due to advances in awareness and increasing alarm requirements. From our vantage point, that does not seem to be the case. Having been involved in numerous hotel poisoning cases, we don’t think the fundamental problems that lead to these poisonings are going to go away soon. In no particular order those include:

Pool Heaters. Pool heaters are not located in a central place and too often get ignored, for years at a time. See our Boone Best Western blogs.

Unqualified Onsite Personnel. So called “hotel engineers” are not that. A qualified head maintenance man is rare. In most hotels, the person charged with being the maintenance superintendent or the equivalent, has little or no training in maintaining HVAC equipment. The limit of onsite experience in most hotels is changing filters. 

No Preventive Maintenance by Professionals. Any commercial establishment, especially any hotel (because people sleep there), should have annual preventative maintenance contracts with licensed HVAC professionals. Onsite personnel do not have the training and experience to do these tasks. See above. When licensed HVAC contractors are only called when untrained people perceive a danger, the greatest danger is likely to be missed. 

Alarms. Alarms are not maintained and are not in the right places. A hotel is a big building. An alarm, if properly maintained, will only go off where the carbon monoxide escapes the HVAC system. Often that is floors away from the equipment room in which the main HVAC equipment is housed. The escape of Carbon monoxide can happen anywhere along the flue chase for the exhaust, which means a lot of different places in a five or ten story hotel. One approach we have seen is to require detectors in any room adjacent to the flue but implementing that would require a detailed understanding of the building plans of the structure. Further, such a plan would also require a detector in every room on the top floor, if the hotel has a crawl space or attic area below the roof.  

The only solution is an alarm in every room. Until the hotel industry corrects these problems, it is wise to carry a portable carbon monoxide detector with you wherever you go.

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