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The DoubleTree Grand Key Resort in Key West Working
 to Earn Back its Certificate of Occupancy
By Christine Braden, Florida Keys Keynoter, MarathonMcClatchy-Tribune Business News

Feb. 28, 2007 --Two months after carbon monoxide fumes killed a guest at the DoubleTree Grand Key Resort in Key West, the hotel plans to reopen Thursday - but without its former general manager.

Hotel officials say Steve Robbins, who was general manager when the Dec. 29 death occurred, has resigned. Robbins, who did not return any phone calls made by the Keynoter, announced he was no longer with the DoubleTree hotel at a local Rotary Club meeting.

Meanwhile, "We are confident that we will reopen on March 1," said Jeanne Sullivan, spokeswoman for Heartland Hotel Corp., which oversees the DoubleTree.

Twenty-five-year-old Thomas Lueders died from the carbon monoxide fumes in his fourth-floor hotel room Dec. 29. His father, Richard, was hospitalized and later released.

Both the DoubleTree and Robbins individually are named in a lawsuit filed by Iowa residents David, Jody and Nathan Smith, who seeking damages in excess of $15,000.

The Smiths stayed in Room 416, next to the boiler room, only one week prior to Lueders' death in the same room. Dozens of people have come forward claiming they were harmed by carbon monoxide fumes during their stays at the South Roosevelt Boulevard hotel.

After Lueders' death, the city pulled the DoubleTree's certificate of occupancy and occupational licenses until city inspections can show the hotel complies with city and state code.

According to Sullivan, the hotel has been working to earn back its licenses by replacing the boilers and moving them to the roof so combustion would not impact guests. Additionally, the DoubleTree has replaced all alarm and sprinkler systems, she said. The hotel has gone "beyond requirements, " she says, by installing the latest and most advanced equipment in smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detectors. "Carbon monoxide detectors have been installed in all areas where combustion could take place in a hotel," said Sullivan, who hoped to have all inspections done by Thursday.

City officials who are required to inspect the hotel before it can reopen have not confirmed the optimistic target opening date. "We haven't been called to conduct any life-safety inspections at this point," Key West Building Official John Woodson said Tuesday afternoon. Neither the city nor the local Fire Marshal's Office had received word the hotel is ready to receive inspectors, Woodson said.

However, Sullivan said, "I've been assured that our engineer is working with the appropriate city inspection agencies to get this done." The State Attorney's Office is ready to begin investigations from the Key West Police Department, the local Fire Marshal's Office and the state Fire Marshal's Office on the incident. The state attorney will review the investigations for "criminal culpability," according to spokesman Matthew Helmerich.


Copyright (c) 2007, Florida Keys Keynoter, Marathon

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