The Mexico City District Attorney’s preliminary conclusion about the potential cause of death of three Americans in an apartment rented through Airbnb is being challenged due to a number of inconsistencies. The official report stated that Kandace Florence, Jordan Marshall and Courtez Hall, who were on vacation in Mexico, had died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a rented condominium apartment. It also noted that condominium security guards had reported “a strong smell of gas,” which is being questioned by the apartment owner and condominium management since carbon monoxide is an odorless gas. The victims’ families are considering requesting new autopsies in the United States to validate the preliminary conclusion of the Mexico City DA.
The three Americans were found dead in the La Cité condominium, near Santa Fe, which is one of the more affluent areas of Mexico City. The apartment was rented by Jordan Marshall through Airbnb for a short stay to celebrate the Day of the Dead (November 1). On the night of October 29, Kandace; Jordan and Courtez were seen at an unnamed Mexico City bar. As they returned to the apartment in the early hours of October 30, Kandace sent a message to Victor Day, her boyfriend in the US, saying “I feel drugged.” She never mentioned any gas smell in the apartment. When Kandace failed to respond to his messages all the next day, Day contacted the apartment owner around 7pm and asked her to send someone to check on Kandace and her friends. The apartment owner sent private security guards, who called the authorities after finding the bodies of the three Americans.
This is where the inconsistencies begin. Officials from the District Attorney’s office say that the security guards “requested support from the Ministry of Public Security because they smelled a strong gas odor in an apartment.” However, a representative from Administración AIO, the condominium management company, denied that the guards, who are AIO employees, reported any gas smell. EL PAÍS obtained WhatsApp messages sent by AIO to all the condominium owners on November 10 clearly stating, “We did not detect any gas smell. There was another strange smell that we could not identify, and later learned that it was due to decomposition [of the bodies]. The guards called Public Security to report the bodies, not because of a gas smell.” EL PAÍS contacted the AIO representative who sent the WhatsApp messages to the condominium owners, but did not receive a response.
The apartment owner, whose name has not been publicly released, told EL PAÍS that the security guards’ emergency call was to get help for the three Americans, not because of a gas smell. “There was never any report of a gas smell. The authorities arrived because I asked the security guards to check on them at Victor’s request. When no one answered the door, I asked the guards to go in. That’s when they called 911. They went there to check on the three guests, not because someone complained about a ‘strong gas smell’. That’s the truth,” the Airbnb host told EL PAÍS.
Due to the ongoing investigation, there is still no access to the apartment. The Airbnb advertisement for the apartment indicates that it is equipped with carbon monoxide detectors, which did not set off any alarms on the night of the tragedy, according to Victor Day. However, the condominium management company informed other building residents that the apartment did not, in fact, have carbon monoxide detectors, and suggested that a water heater may have malfunctioned.
“The hallway sensors are for detecting smoke, not gas. I can tell you that the apartment where this happened did not have a gas detector. Unfortunately, most of the condominium owners do not properly maintain their hot water heaters, nor do they have gas detectors,” said a WhatsApp message from AIO. EL PAÍS contacted the Airbnb host to ask whether the apartment has an electric or gas water heater, and whether it has carbon monoxide detectors, but did not receive a response.
Victor Day claims that the Airbnb host initially told him that a neighbor had smelled gas, but then changed her story a few days and denied saying that. “We still don’t have answers about where the gas came from or why the monitors didn’t work,” Day told us by phone from Virginia (USA). He says that the results of the autopsies performed in Mexico have not been released to the victims’ families, more than two weeks after their deaths. “We don’t know why it’s taking so long,” he said, and told us that Kandace’s mother is seeking legal advice about whether to request a new autopsy in the US. The bodies of Kandace and Jordan were repatriated on November 9, and Kandace’s funeral will be held on November 19.
Meanwhile, Airbnb said little until November 9, when it issued a brief statement saying that it would provide assistance to the host, and signaled its willingness to collaborate in the investigation.