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Roommate's 911 call too late for woman poisoned by carbon monoxide

TAMPA — Kashaunda Joyner woke up for work Thursday and felt so nauseated she tried to call 911. She passed out. Twice.

Her call finally went through at 9:27 a.m. But when emergency workers arrived, Joyner's roommate, Rebecca Hawk, was lying in bed — and had no heartbeat.

On Friday, a medical examiner's report confirmed that Hawk, a 23-year-old child protective investigator with the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office, died of carbon monoxide poisoning after accidentally inhaling motor vehicle exhaust.

Her neighbor, Andrew Grywalski, 22, left a car running in a garage adjacent to Hawk's bedroom. It had been running for about 11 hours, police said.

Joyner, 20, also was taken to a hospital Thursday. On Friday, she was resting at her mother's Wesley Chapel home. She did not return a message.

Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said it's too early to say whether the incident was an accident or if charges against Grywalski are likely. State Attorney's Office spokesman Mark Cox said he couldn't comment on the case.

Each year, more than 400 people in the United States die from carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Carbon monoxide robs the heart, brain and other organs of oxygen. Large amounts of carbon monoxide can kill a person in minutes.

More than 20,000 people visit the emergency room and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.

Last month, three people in Palm Harbor were rushed to hospitals with carbon monoxide poisoning after a car was left running in a closed garage. A 60-year-old man, 50-year-old woman and her minor daughter all survived.

Even for those who recover, acute carbon monoxide poisoning can result in permanent damage to the heart and brain, according to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Serious reproductive risk is also linked to the poisoning.

Several government agencies, including the Office of the Surgeon General and the U.S. Fire Administration, recommend that homeowners install carbon monoxide detectors in their homes.

Some models sell for as little as $12. In many states, however, they're not required.

In Florida, detectors are required within 10 feet of sleeping areas on post-July 2008 construction on buildings with gas-burning appliances.

The Vista Grande at Tampa Palms apartments, where Hawk died, were built in 2002 and the Tampa Fire Department said the complex appeared to be up to code. City code inspectors say they found only one issue this week: water damage to some drywall.

But the incident has worried a number of residents at Vista Grande, a gated apartment complex with tile roofs, manicured landscaping and internal street signs decorated with insignias.

Matt Cassem, who lived in the same building as Hawk and Joyner, said he was on his way to the store to pick up a carbon monoxide detector.

"I'm actually surprised they don't just include them," he said.

Rayna Ramsingh, who also lives in the building, said the complex should have installed detectors since garages are attached. And she's upset that no one from the apartment complex had spoken with residents as of Friday afternoon.

She added that she was mystified how the car ran for hours with no one knowing.

"How is it that your car's running and you don't know?" she asked.

Grywalski did not return messages seeking comment.

Just a week ago, Hawk completed the classroom portion of her training. That Friday, the class had a small graduation ceremony, and Hawk's parents drove down from Jacksonville. "She was so excited her mom was coming," said fellow trainee Amanda Feenaughty

This week, Hawk and others in her class got their own cubicles and began their nine-week field training.

She was funny and outgoing and curious about other people, her friends said. She called her mother every day. She danced the electric slide and drank light coffee loaded with cream and sugar every morning. She was an early bird, and always the first to say, "Hello."

"She was enthusiastic, very positive," said her supervisor, Lt. Carmen Rivas. "She was the unspoken leader of the class."

"You could see it in her eyes that this was something she really wanted to do," said fellow trainee Brian Seaman. "She talked about how she had a nice upbringing and she wanted to give back to the community."

Reach Jodie Tillman at jtillman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3374 or Jessica Vander Velde at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Roommate's 911 call too late for woman poisoned by carbon monoxide 09/02/11 [Last modified: Saturday, September 3, 2011 12:27am]

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