The bodies of five Haitian teenagers were found Monday in a Florida motel room by a housemaid who peeked in a window.
The bodies were lying on and around a bed at the El Presidente Motel in Hialeah, Florida just North of Miami near the Miami International airport.
Police say the teens, who rented the $62-a-night room on Sunday to celebrate a friend’s birthday, died from carbon monoxide poisoning after they left a car running in the garage directly beneath their room. The car was still running when police arrived.
“The room is sealed shut like it was an aircraft,” one of the victims’ friends, Junior Reeds, 26, told the Miami Herald. “This is a hotel room. You got to have vents. A minor incident could cause a big tragedy.”
The dead boys are identified as Evans Charles, 19, Jonas Antenor, 18, Peterson Nazon, 17, and Jean Pierre Ferdinand, 16. They came from the neighboring Little Haiti cultural enclave in Miami.
No drugs or alcohol were found in the room.
Carl Zogby, a spokesman for police in Hialeah, Florida, said the deaths: “seems like this is a tragic accident.”
The boys borrowed a Kia from a friend to make the short trip to the motel. About an hour before they arived, the engine was jump started by another friend, identified in the Miami Herald as Maxon Ofea, 18.
Ofea, who grew up with the five dead teenagers, said they had left the car running in the single-car garage under the room because they were afraid it wouldn’t start again.
A door at the base of a staircase leading up to the room from the garage was propped open, allowing deadly odorless gas to seep into the room.
Peterson Nazon’s mother, who arrived from Little Haiti, couldn’t contain her grief at the scene: “They killed my son, they killed my son,” she cried in Creole.
She told the Miami Herald she had been phoning the room all morning. “Nobody answered,” she said.
Little Haiti was established in Miami in the 1980s by Haitian immigrants who arrived by boat after fleeing famine, poverty and persecution in Haiti.
Ironically, Hialeah is where Cuban immigrants settled after fleeing communism in Cuba in the 80s.