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New Tampa carbon monoxide death blamed on driver's forgetfulness

TAMPA — After a woman died of carbon monoxide poisoning because her neighbor neglected to turn off his car, one question remained.

Why was the car left running?

On Wednesday, Tampa police provided the answer: Driver Andrew Grywalski simply forgot to turn off his 2011 Mazda 3.

He wasn't distracted or rushed. Drugs and alcohol don't seem to be factors. And he didn't have an engine that turns on with the press of a button, police said.

Grywalski, 22, drove home from art class Sept. 1, pulled into his garage in Building 900 at the Vista Grande Apartments and left the key in the ignition, said Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy.

"It was a very quiet car, and he thought that he had turned it off," McElroy said.

Last week, prosecutors decided they wouldn't file charges against Grywalski because they didn't believe he had committed a crime. Police called it a "tragic accident."

Rebecca Hawk, 23, died after breathing fumes from the car as she slept. Her roommate, Kashaunda Joyner, 20, was hospitalized.

New information released Wednesday indicates the car had been left running for 16 hours, not 11 as previously stated. According to McElroy, this is what happened:

At about 5:15 p.m., Grywalski pulled into his garage at the New Tampa complex, closed the garage door, walked inside and had dinner with his father.

Several hours later, both men noticed a strange smell and thought it was either a side effect of their mold problem — due to a roof leak — or that perhaps an animal had died in the wall.

Grywalski reported the leak to maintenance and went to sleep on a living room couch. He woke up about 8 a.m. and immediately noticed the smell was stronger.

"He started checking all the rooms, trying to find where the smell was coming from," McElroy said. When he opened the garage door, he saw the car was still running. Grywalski opened the garage door and the apartment's windows, and a maintenance supervisor on scene noticed the strong odor of exhaust.

The supervisor ordered the workers off the roof. Meanwhile, a female tenant in Building 900 walked over to the supervisor and said she was feeling light-headed. Grywalski told the supervisor he had mistakenly left his vehicle on and that he was trying to air out the apartment.

The maintenance supervisor realized the light-headed tenant may have been affected by the fumes, so he called the front office. A manager called 911, and the maintenance man started evacuating the building.

Paramedics arrived, and Joyner was treated at the hospital. But it was apparently too late for Hawk. Grywalski has declined to comment. McElroy said Grywalski was devastated to learn a woman had died.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or jvandervelde@sptimes.com.

New Tampa carbon monoxide death blamed on driver's forgetfulness 09/21/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 22, 2011 11:08am]
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