Three Americans found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning at Mexico City Airbnb, official says



CNN

The families of three Americans who died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a rented residence in Mexico City ahead of Day of the Dead celebrations have identified them as two New Orleans teachers and the owner of a Virginia Beach-based candle business.

Jordan Marshall, 28, a 12th-grade English teacher, was curious and loved different cultures, his mother told CNN Wednesday, while his friend, Courtez Hall, 33, was a social studies teacher at seventh grade in the city. According to his sister, he loved to sing and dance and “was the joker of the family.” Meanwhile, Kandace Florence, 28, had a “pure” heart and mind and encouraged negativity, her mother said.

The three friends were staying in an apartment they found on Airbnb in the Rosita neighborhood of the Mexican capital. The Attorney General’s Office of Mexico City began an investigation on October 30, which investigates the “death of three foreigners, resulting from possible poisoning by gas inhalation.” Expert studies indicate that the gas was carbon monoxide, according to the attorney general’s statement.

After detecting a strong smell of gas in the apartment, security guards at a residential complex requested support from local authorities, according to the statement, and arriving officers found the bodies of a woman and two men.

They were pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics, according to the report. The attorney general’s office ordered investigations.

The US State Department confirmed the deaths, saying it was monitoring the investigation and awaiting official findings. He referred questions about the investigation to Mexican authorities.

“We continue to provide all appropriate consular assistance to the families,” the department said in a statement. “Out of respect for the privacy of the families, we have nothing more to add at this time. … We once again offer our most sincere condolences to the families for their loss.”

Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas found in fumes from fuel burned in vehicles, stoves and cookers, lanterns, grills, fireplaces or ovens, according to the CDC. Symptoms of prolonged inhalation include headaches, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.

Freida Florence gave a harrowing account of how she learned her daughter had died. One of her sons called and reported, “‘Mom, Kandace is no longer with us,’ and repeated it several times,” she said. It took hours to process his words.

“I was disheartened. I was emotionally distraught,” she said.

Kandace Florence’s boyfriend, Victor Day, checked on her the morning of the day she died. She texted him around 4:10 a.m. ET to say she wasn’t feeling well, emotionally or physically, he told CNN.

“What’s wrong?” he answered, and she said she wasn’t well and wanted to go home. She said she felt like she had been drugged, Day said. When they touched base on FaceTime, she seemed distraught, he said.

He tried to contact her later in the morning without success, he said, so he contacted Marshall, his childhood friend from Virginia.

After not hearing from Florence or Marshall, Day contacted the Airbnb host in Mexico City to ask for a welfare check.

Kandace Florence started a candle business during the pandemic, her mother says.

“Maybe 10 to 15 minutes later, she writes that the three of them are in the apartment and they were all found unresponsive with no vital signs, and emergency services were contacted,” Day said. “My heart sank.”

One of Freida Florence’s sons flew to Mexico City on November 2 and identified her the next day. His body has been returned to Virginia, but it still has to clear customs and the family is working with a funeral home to obtain his remains.

“I haven’t laid eyes on my daughter yet,” the mother said of her youngest son. “She was my beloved daughter, my dreamer, my creator.”

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Kandace Florence started a candle business, Glo Through It, telling her mother that people were shutting down and hurting and that she wanted to “bring them light,” Freida Florence recalled. “I was very proud of her.”

Freida Florence and Day spoke of her positive nature, with Day saying Kandace was an ambitious and hard worker with a “sense of exploration, wanting to experience and feel new things.” She would have celebrated her 29th birthday on Thursday.

“She was just a beautiful soul,” he said. “She was a spark of light. She was very nice, a perfect human being. That’s what hurts the most.”

Added his mother: “He had a pure heart, a pure mind and would not tolerate anything negative.”

Marshall grew up in Virginia Beach, Va., said his mother, Jennifer Marshall.

“He was a bright ray of light, and he was never forgotten by anyone who came in contact with him. We have been receiving so much love and support from people everywhere,” she said. “Jordan was very intellectual and curious. He loved being immersed in different cultures. He was very passionate about his students and was a very passionate educator.”

Jordan Marshall was intellectual, curious and loved immersing himself in culture, his mother said.

TaNaja Williams, Hall’s niece, said she was shocked to learn her uncle had died. She called him “the light of my life” and said she would miss him.

“Every time I walked into the room, it was pure joy and happiness,” she said. “We both loved music. We would always sing together, and I’m going to miss it.”

His mother, Hall’s sister Tanieka, said she will miss her brother dearly.

“He was so full of life. He was always happy, he always had a big smile on his face. He was the joker of the family. He was always in a good place and very smart,” she said. “She loved to dance. She loved to sing.”

The school where Courtez Hall taught released balloons in her honor last week, and students and fellow teachers were visibly moved, Tanieka Hall said.

The trio traveled to Mexico City for Day of the Dead, Jennifer Marshall said. The celebrations, which usually spread across Mexico on November 1 and 2, honor deceased loved ones and take on a lively tone with attendees sharing poetry and breaking bread together. Elaborately decorated skulls and skull-shaped sweets are a regular feature.

Jordan Marshall’s mother traveled to the capital and identified his body, Jennifer Marshall said. After going through a series of steps, she repatriated his body to the United States, he said.

Courtez Hall brought

Hall’s family learned of her death when the U.S. Embassy called her mother on Oct. 31, her mother’s birthday, Tanieka Hall said. An embassy official told the family he was unresponsive and foul play was not suspected, the sister said.

“For her to receive that news on her birthday was extremely devastating,” he said.

The Hall family is working to get his body home and has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help with funeral expenses, Tanieka Hall said.

Airbnb called the deaths a “terrible tragedy” and said it was ready to help with any enquiries.

“Our thoughts are with the families and loved ones as they grieve such an unimaginable loss. Our priority right now is to support those affected as authorities investigate what happened,” the online home rental company said in a statement.

Jennifer Marshall would like to see Airbnb and similar services mandate the use of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to prevent future tragedies, she said. It was not immediately known if there were working detectors in the apartment.

“We want to make sure his death was not in vain,” said Jennifer Marshall.

Airbnb strongly encourages hosts to install carbon monoxide detectors in their residences, it says, and offers free detectors to hosts.

News of the deaths comes just months after reports that three Americans died of carbon monoxide poisoning at a Sandals resort on Great Exuma Island in the Bahamas.

Two couples reported feeling unwell on the evening of May 5 and were treated by medical personnel, Bahamas police said.

The next day, Michael Phillips, 68, and his wife, Robbie Phillips, 65, of Tennessee, and Vincent Paul Chiarella, 64, of Florida, were found dead in their homes. Chiarella’s wife, Donnis, 65, was flown to the capital, Nassau, for additional treatment before being flown to Florida.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Kandace Florence’s boyfriend. It’s Victor’s day.

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