The heartbroken mothers of three Americans who died this month from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at an Airbnb in Mexico City said their deaths were easily preventable and announced a coming lawsuit against the rental giant.
Speaking together publicly for the first time in an exclusive interview Wednesday were Jennifer Marshall, the mother of Jordan Marshall, 28; Freida Florence, the mother of Kandace Florence, 28, and Ceola Hall, the mother of Courtez Hall, 33.
The women say they are struggling to cope with their children's deaths.
Florence said Airbnb should have required their rental units to have working carbon monoxide detectors.
"I cannot process in my mind why my daughter is not here today," she said. "There is no excuse. There is no excuse. It cost $30. If I had known, I would have bought it for her."
The women's attorney, L. Chris Stewart, based in Atlanta, said the Americans died from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a malfunctioning water heater.
The lawsuit, which has not been filed yet, will seek to compel Airbnb to mandate working carbon monoxide detectors at all of its properties around the world. Stewart said the company has been sued about the issue before and knew it was a problem.
Airbnb regulates guns and parties, so requiring carbon monoxide alarms should be a company policy to keep customers safe, Stewart said.
"These are the three examples of what parents want their children to be. We lost a 12th grade teacher, a seventh grade teacher, an entrepreneur who built a company from nothing. That's what we want. These people were helping the next generation," Stewart said.
Airbnb probably doesn't require carbon monoxide detectors because listings would have to be pulled, Stewart said, affecting the company's bottom line.
"It's always about money. They only speak money, which is why this lawsuit is coming," he said.
A spokesperson for Airbnb said in a statement: “This is a terrible tragedy, and our thoughts are with the families and loved ones as they grieve such an unimaginable loss. Our priority right now is supporting those impacted as the authorities investigate what happened, and we stand ready to assist with their inquiries however we can.”
The listing in Mexico City has been suspended, and Airbnb has been in touch with the U.S. Embassy about the three deaths, it said.
Airbnb added that it runs a global detector program, giving away smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to all eligible hosts. The company said that more than 200,000 hosts around the world have ordered detectors through the program and that all hosts are encouraged to confirm they have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Marshall said Airbnb has to do more.
"We can never get our babies back. But we really want to ensure that no other family has to deal with this," she said. "The way that we lost our children, I mean, it's devastating. You go from grief to rage, because this could have so easily been avoided."
Kandace Florence, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, was staying with Marshall, a high school friend, also of Virginia Beach, and Marshall’s friend Hall, relatives told NBC News and NBC affiliate WAVY of Portsmouth, Virginia.
Investigators believe the trio died from carbon monoxide poisoning, Mexico City prosecutors said.
Marshall, a 12th grade English teacher at Rosenwald Collegiate High School in New Orleans, loved to travel, said his mother, Jennifer Marshall.
“In his short 28 years, we can draw comfort from the fact he did travel and he did live a very, very full life,” she said.
The trio had been in the city to mark Día de los Muertos, a celebration traditionally held on Nov. 1 and 2 to honor the dead, their relatives have said.
Kandace Florence told her boyfriend by phone Oct. 30 that she wasn’t feeling well, WAVY reported. At some point, the call dropped, and Florence’s boyfriend was unable to reach her again, so he contacted the Airbnb host and asked for a checkup on the group, the station reported.
Three U.S. tourists were found dead in May at a Sandals resort in the Bahamas. Authorities announced in June that they died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
In a statement, the Royal Bahamas Police Force said the three victims, identified as Michael Phillips, 68, and Robbie Phillips, 65, of Tennessee, and Vincent Chiarella, 64, of Florida, died as a result of asphyxiation due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
They were found dead at the Sandals Emerald Bay Resort in Great Exuma on May 6.
Police previously said an initial investigation had found that one of the couples had complained of illness the night before they were found. They had visited a medical facility, received treatment and then returned to the villa, police said.
It was not clear whether the villas had been equipped with carbon monoxide detectors or, if they had, whether they were working.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon monoxide poisoning is almost entirely preventable. And yet every year more than 400 people in the U.S. die and tens of thousands more are sickened.
Often, the source is a common appliance that malfunctions or is used improperly. But carbon monoxide poisoning can be especially dangerous during power outages, when people use alternative sources of fuel or electricity, such as generators.
The gas is particularly dangerous because it is odorless, colorless and tasteless, and it can kill within minutes at high levels. Those who survive may suffer brain damage and other long-term health problems.
Carbon monoxide is produced when not enough oxygen is reaching a fuel-burning source. Furnaces, car engines, stoves, generators, grills, water heaters and clothes dryers are some of the sources that can release carbon monoxide because of inadequate ventilation, mechanical issues and other problems.
The best way to detect whether there are unsafe levels of the poisonous gas is to have a working carbon monoxide monitor, which will sound an alarm if you’re in danger.
Early symptoms can include headache, dizziness and nausea, similar to the flu. At higher levels of exposure, carbon monoxide can produce vomiting, weakness, shortness of breath, chest pain and confusion. Without immediate treatment, people can lose consciousness and die.
A winter storm in Texas in mid-February 2021 resulted in one of the worst carbon monoxide poisoning incidents in recent history, experts said. At least 11 people died and more than 1,400 residents sought emergency care for carbon monoxide poisoning during the storm, data shows.
In the U.S., most states require carbon monoxide alarms in newly constructed or remodeled homes, and nearly 30 states require them in some or all existing homes. Cities and counties can also pass their own requirements. Landlords are required to provide them in some states and cities.
Hall described her son Wednesday as a loving person and "workaholic" whose "life was those students."
She said the two spoke constantly while his son was on his way to school and then when his workday ended. Hall said she learned of her son's death on her birthday.
"No, not my son," Hall said of her reaction. "I was screaming and hollering. ... Tell me that's not true."