Best Western Still Closed After Carbon Monoxide Deaths


by Morgan Fogarty
Bio | Email | Follow: @morganfogarty by Photographer Billy Carrier

BOONE, N.C. - Jari Eloranta became a vocal advocate for safer culverts after seven-year-old Bryson Cox drowned in one at the Red Carpet Inn in 2010.  Eloranta sent countless letters to elected officials and organized a grassroots campaign using social media.

Ashok Patel claimed family ownership of the Red Carpet Inn.  The Patels were cited in the child's death.  Eloranta says, "It took them a year to even put up a fence to correct the situation."

The Patel family also owns the Best Western, where over the past three months, three people have died due to carbon monoxide poisoning.  When Eloranta learned of the connection, he says, "I was dumbfounded."

Family members tell us after Patel's death in January, his son Justin took over the family businesses.  The younger Patel has acknowledged the Best Western deaths only through his attorney.  Eloranta says, "They're (the Patels) not gonna take responsibility, it's gonna take years to resolve. They're gonna try to dodge any financial or criminal liability in these issues."  

The Watauga County Medical Examiner's Office admitted to knowing carbon monoxide killed two people at the Best Western before the third,11-year-old Jeffrey Williams of Rock Hill, died.  The chief examiner resigned the same day of the admission.

"I hope people don't fixate too much on the failures to investigate some of these issues, that in fact, the ultimate responsibility lies with the Patel family. They own and manage these properties," says Eloranta.

We went to the Boone home from where the Patels operate some of their family businesses.  Jason Patel, one of the sons, described the family's business structure as "complicated."  He says his brother Justin is out of town.

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