msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 12/28/2010 7:24:47 AM ET 2010-12-28T12:24:47

Five young men celebrating a birthday likely died due to carbon monoxide from a car they left running in a garage under their South Florida motel room, investigators said Tuesday.

The group rented the room Sunday to celebrate one of teens' 19th birthday. They had planned to celebrate with fast food and McDonald's bags could be seen in the room, the Miami Herald reported.

A Hialeah fire spokesman said a maid called 911 on Monday after seeing people unconscious through a window. Police evacuated the Presidente Motel so they could investigate the scene, NBC station WTVJ reported.

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Police spokesman Carl Zogby said the teenagers' deaths appear to be accidental, but that the Miami Dade Medical Examiner is investigating the cause.

A car used by the group was found running in a closed garage underneath the room. Friends told The Miami Herald the car had needed a jump-start earlier and could have been left running to keep the battery charged. A door to a staircase up to the room had been left open, and high levels of carbon monoxide were found inside.

'Sprawled on the floor'
In a 911 call, the maid described a strong smell of gasoline and said she was concerned because the five young men appeared unconscious. The maid told the emergency dispatcher in Spanish that she opened the door and called out "hello" and got no response.

"They're all there, and they don't respond," she said. "They're sprawled on the floor. I haven't wanted to touch them. I'm scared."

The maid described the smell of gasoline as "a terrible stench" to the dispatcher.

Zogby said detectives located smoke detectors in both the garage and the motel room, but it was not clear if the devices were working or able to pick up carbon monoxide, the Herald reported.

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Officials said they did not find alcohol, drugs or suspicious items in the room.

Authorities identified the dead as Miami residents Juchen C. Marctial, 19, Peterson Nazon, 17, Jonas Antenor, 17, Jean Pierre Ferdinand, 16, and Evans Charles, 19. Several of the victims were of Haitian descent, the Herald reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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