N.C. Medical Examiners

Judge sanctions former employees of Best Western in Boone

A judge has issued an injunction against maintenance workers who installed a used swimming pool water heater at the Best Western in Boone, where three guests died last year of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The order bars Charles Harold Robinson, Rich Moses, Steve Thigpen and the company they worked for, Appalachian Hospitality Management, from ever again violating state law by “engaging in business as a plumbing, heating or fire sprinkler contractor.”

The State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating & Fire Sprinkler Contractors sought the injunction. According to the order by Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens, the defendants denied that they had acted as contractors, but they agreed to enter into the consent order.

An Observer investigation last year revealed that the employees replaced an existing swimming pool water heater at the Best Western with a used pool heater from another hotel in 2011. The employees were not licensed to do the work, and did not get a permit or an inspection. A gas company later converted the heater from propane to natural gas.

Carbon monoxide from the swimming pool heating system infiltrated a room on the floor above and killed Daryl and Shirley Jenkins last April and 11-year-old Jeffrey Williams in June.

Damon Mallatere, who owned Appalachian Hospitality, was indicted in January on three charges of involuntary manslaughter and one charge of assault inflicting serious bodily injury. Jeffrey’s mother, Jeannie Williams, was also poisoned but survived. Mallatere’s company managed the hotel.

A trial date for Mallatere has not been set. His next court hearing is scheduled for June 23.

The State Board of Examiners is also considering disciplinary action against Dale Thomas Winkler, a licensed contractor who worked on the pool heating system.

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