Roanoke College

The Anniversary of the Carbon Monoxide Incident at Roanoke College


SALEM, Va.-Saturday, July 14 marks the one-year anniversary of the carbon monoxide accident in Roanoke College's Sections dormitories. Since this tragic accident, the College has installed carbon monoxide detectors in every building on campus and continues to work to educate its campus community about the dangers of carbon monoxide.

Rev. Walter Vierling died and more than 100 people were taken to local hospitals for exposure to carbon monoxide in the accident last July. Two groups of campus guests were involved in events last July. Both groups, Power in the Spirit and Upward Bound, returned for their 2007 summer programs.

The City of Salem's Fire Department investigated and reported that the accident was caused by a failure in the gas-fed hot water system.

Roanoke College and Power in the Spirit have a long connection, and the College values the group's return to campus. "It's been one year since the tragic carbon monoxide accident, and our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who was affected by the events," Mike Maxey, president, said in a meeting with the group this afternoon.

Since last July, Roanoke College has installed hundreds of carbon monoxide detectors-both the battery operated type often found in homes and more sophisticated detectors wired into the fire alarm systems of College buildings.

Last September, the college had a second carbon monoxide build-up in the Sigma Chi fraternity house. The newly installed CO detectors alerted the students and allowed them to be safely evacuated.

"We were grateful to learn our system worked, and we have added even further protection since then with the addition of many hard-wired CO detectors," Maxey said of the second incident.

Many other colleges have increased their CO safety and detection systems as a result of the accident in Sections. Roanoke has been a model for how to approach this at a college.

Safety information and the Roanoke College Carbon Monoxide Task Force's report are available online.