Friday, Oct 30–Hotel Owner Pleads Guilty To CO Violations, Avoids Fine

OCEAN CITY – The owner of a resort motel evacuated in the height of the summer season in August because carbon monoxide (CO) poisoned several guests pleaded guilty last week to one count of failure to provide CO detectors in violation of a town ordinance passed over two years ago, but got by with just a $1,000 donation to the fire department for its carbon monoxide education and outreach program.

Salvatore Rinaldi, owner of the Americana Hotel on the Boardwalk at 10th Street, appeared in District Court last Thursday to face 10 separate municipal infractions for failure to provide carbon monoxide detectors at various guests rooms in the building as well as other common areas including the Hammerheads Bar and Grill, the laundry room and the pool area. Rinaldi pleaded guilty to one count and the nine others were not prosecuted.

Each of the citations carried a maximum fine of $1,000, leaving Rinaldi facing a fine of as much as $10,000 for the 10 different counts, but in the end, he was not officially fined even for the citation for which he pleaded guilty. District Court Judge Daniel Mumford fined Rinaldi $1,000 for the citation, but then suspended the fine when the hotel owner agreed to make a $1,000 donation to the Ocean City Fire Department for its ongoing carbon monoxide detector awareness and outreach program.

Around 9:20 a.m. on Aug. 11, a 911 call was placed from the Americana reporting guests exhibiting signs of CO exposure. First responders detected dangerous levels of CO in the rooms where guests reported illness. Three people were treated at the scene for symptoms of CO poisoning and two had to be briefly hospitalized.

About 91 of the hotel’s 94 rooms were occupied during the incident and 150 guests were evacuated from the building and the hotel was shut down indefinitely. The investigation revealed the building lacked the required CO detectors mandated by an ordinance passed in 2007 in the wake of a similar incident during which two Pennsylvania tourists perished from CO poisoning at another Boardwalk motel in July 2006. In February 2007, the Mayor and Council passed the ordinance requiring carbon monoxide detectors in all multi-family dwelling units as well as any building that employed fuel-burning equipment.