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Deaths of U.S. couple prompt luxury Mexican hotel to suspend operations

Click to play video: 'Deaths of U.S. couple in Mexico hotel linked to gas poisoning: police'
Deaths of U.S. couple in Mexico hotel linked to gas poisoning: police
WATCH: The bodies of a California couple, said to be vacationing in Mexico's Baja region, were found unresponsive in their room on June 13. Local authorities have since attributed the cause of death to gas poisoning – Jun 22, 2023

The deaths of two American tourists on vacation in Mexico prompted the luxury seaside resort they were staying in to temporarily suspend operations until an internal investigation can be conducted.

“Our top priority is the safety and wellbeing of guests and colleagues and the property will not resume normal operations until our investigation is complete,” a Hyatt spokesperson told CBS. The Hotel Rancho Pescadero, where the couple died, is owned by Hyatt Hotels and is located in El Pescadero, a small town north of Cabo San Lucas.

John Heathco, 41, and Abby Lutz, 28, were found dead in their hotel room last week after previously being hospitalized for what they thought was food poisoning earlier in their trip, according to Lutz’s family.

The couple’s cause of death was deemed as “intoxication by substance to be determined,” according to the state attorney general’s office. The Associated Press reported that the suspected cause of death was gas inhalation.

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Lutz’s family believes the couple died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

“We have been told it was due to improper venting of the resort and could be carbon monoxide poisoning,” the family wrote on its GoFundMe page to help bring their daughter’s body back to the U.S.

“Abby was supposed to meet up with her dad this week for Father’s Day and all of this is completely unexpected,” the family added. “Abby was the most beautiful soul and we will miss her so much.”

The couple was found on the evening of June 13, after police were alerted that two guests were unconscious in their hotel room.

By that time, the two had been dead for about 10 to 11 hours, according to the Attorney General’s Office, which noted that authorities found no signs of violence on their bodies.

Renting a room at the Hotel Rancho Pescadero could run you from US$675 per night to up to US$1,500 per night for a private villa and pool, according to the hotel’s website.

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There have been several cases of deaths in Mexico due to poisoning by carbon monoxide or other gases. Such gases are often produced by improperly vented or leaky water heaters and stoves.

In Mexico, proper gas line installations and vents are often lacking, and there is no legal requirement to install carbon monoxide monitors. In Canada, rules for installing carbon monoxide monitors vary from province to province.

Last year, three U.S. citizens were found dead at a rented Airbnb in Mexico, apparent victims of gas inhalation.

The Mexico City police department said the three were found unresponsive Oct. 30 in an upscale neighbourhood. They had apparently rented the dwelling for a short visit. Post-mortem examinations suggested the two men and one woman died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

In 2018, a gas leak in a water heater caused the deaths of an American couple and their two children in the resort town of Tulum, south of Playa del Carmen.

An inspection revealed that the water heater at the rented condominium was leaking gas. Prosecutors said the gas leak was perhaps caused by a lack of maintenance or the age of the equipment.

In 2010, the explosion of an improperly installed gas line at a hotel in Playa del Carmen killed five Canadian tourists and two Mexicans.

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In that case, prosecutors said the gas line, apparently meant to fuel a pool heating unit, was not properly installed or maintained. They said gas leaking from the line may have been ignited by a spark from an electric switch or plug.

— With files from the Associated Press

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