Statement of Pat Counts, chief of Salem Fire Department:
The Salem Fire & EMS Department investigation as to the cause of the carbon monoxide leak at Roanoke College on Friday, July 14th has been completed.
It has been determined that the cause of the carbon monoxide leak was a failure in the natural gas-fed water heater system, which is located in the basement mechanical room of the Wells, Yonce and Fox Halls complex.
This system, as well as the other gas fired systems, is designed to ventilate the products of combustion into the outside atmosphere. Due to a failure in one of the components of the system, the normally closed ventilation ducting was compromised which filled the mechanical room with carbon monoxide gas.
The mechanical room itself was ventilated by a fan that drew air from the outside into the mechanical room. This caused a pressurization of the room which, over a period of time, forced the carbon monoxide gas into any crack, crevice or other opening in the building construction.
Due to the elevated levels of carbon monoxide, it is felt that the CO levels in the structure increased over a long period of time.
Records indicate that this appliance was inspected and permitted by the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Labor and Industry on October 31, 2005. The permit expires on October 31, 2007.
Officials at Roanoke College have fully cooperated in the investigation and will further evaluate the reasons for the system failure in hopes that a similar event of any magnitude will not occur.
Our continued thoughts and prayers are extended to those that were affected by this unfortunate incident and most importantly to the immediate and extended family of Pastor Walter Vierling in their time of sorrow.