Sulfuryl Fluoride: VIKANE
CAS No. 2699-79-8

March 10, 2005. Fault is disputed in death, gassing. Woman was inside a tented building.
By Kristen Green. The San Diego Union-Tribune (California).

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March 10, 2005

The San Diego Union-Tribune (California)

Fault is disputed in death, gassing

Woman was inside a tented building

By Kristen Green

The boyfriend of a woman who died after being exposed to toxic fumes believes she wasn't evacuated from the couple's North Park condominium before it was fumigated for termites.

But the president of her condominium association and the fumigation company owner say they checked each unit to make sure the building was empty before it was tented Monday morning. They believe Linda Williams, 37, entered the Ohio Street complex after it had been filled with the fumigant, Vikane gas.

Police say they have not determined whether Williams was in the condominium building during the fumigation or returned after it had been tented and the "Danger!" signs posted.

An employee of D&S Fumigation had returned to the 30-unit complex around 2 p.m. to check toxicity levels around the building when he heard someone screaming for help and noticed a rustling inside the tent. The employee found Williams and pulled her out, D&S owner Dawn Charrette said.

Williams, the mother of five children, died later that day at a San Diego hospital.

"At this point it appears to be more accidental than intentional or negligent," said San Diego police homicide Lt. Mike Hurley.

Williams' death is also being investigated by the state Structural Pest Control Board and the county Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures, which has a pesticide regulatory program. State officials said it was apparently the third such death in recent years.

The county medical examiner said it will take weeks to conclude the autopsy because the office will wait for toxicity reports, which may provide evidence about how long Williams was exposed to the fumes.

Her boyfriend, Damien Peters, said yesterday that Williams had made plans to be picked up by her brother before Monday's 9 a.m. deadline to evacuate. Peters was staying in Alpine at his grandmother's house with the couple's 9-month-old son.

Peters said he doesn't know if Williams and her brother ever connected, and he hasn't talked to him yet. Peters said he tried calling his girlfriend repeatedly that morning. She didn't answer the phone.

He said she was not suicidal, but he admitted that the couple had been having financial problems. He also said she had been diagnosed with Graves' disease, an autoimmune disease which she had not been treating.

He said Williams was a sound sleeper, and because of the baby, she had not been getting much rest. He said it's possible she just slept through the commotion.

"I think the fumigation company screwed up," he said. "I don't think they checked every condo thoroughly."

He doesn't think she went back inside after the fumigation began. "She was in there the whole time," he said. "I would stake my life on it."

Charrette, the company owner, said she personally checked Williams and Peters' unit, along with four other people. She said she is positive Williams was not there.

"There's absolutely no chance of it," she said.

The company uses a warning agent, chloropicrin, before it releases the toxic gas. It has a sharp odor and is irritating to the eyes, nose and throat.

Erik Wiman, president of the Mission Gardens homeowners association, said he walked through every condo with the fumigation company, looking under furniture and in closets and showers to make sure no one was in the building.

He said he distinctly remembers checking Williams' unit.

Wiman and Charrette believe Williams crawled under the tent, which had been secured with bags filled with sand or water, and into the ground-level unit she shared with Peters. Wiman said the sand bags on the southern side of the property, where Williams' condominium is located, were out of place.

Wiman said he was the last resident to exit the building after the walk-through with the fumigation company employee. He said he didn't leave the property until 12:30 p.m., when the fumigation was completed.

"Everything was done by the books," he said.

Wiman, who is not paid for the position, said repeatedly he believes the investigations will find that the homeowners association and the fumigation company were not at fault.

Yesterday, residents gathered outside the condo building, waiting to be allowed back in. Most had not heard about Williams' death, and talked in small groups as they heard the news.

They said they had known about the fumigation for weeks and had all been required to sign consent forms.

Union-Tribune research librarian Merrie Monteagudo contributed to this report.

• Kristen Green: (619) 542-4576;

* Note from FAN: See articles of March 9 and March 10, 2005.

Photo of Linda Williams, age 37, who died after the building she lived in was fumigated.

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