ONLY ON: Days before son's birthday, mother of teen killed in Niles CO poisoning speaks
It's been more than eight months since the fatal carbon monoxide poisoning at the Niles Quality Inn, which left a 13-year old boy dead. With his Christmas Eve birthday approaching, his mother is speaking exclusively with ABC 57's Jess Arnold about how she's fighting to make sure no other families have to go through what she's experiencing.
Nine children, a hotel employee, two deputies, and three police officers were sickened on Saturday, April 1, 2017, when the ventilation system in the Quality Inn's pool heater malfunctioned, releasing carbon monoxide into the air.
13-year-old Bryan Douglas-Watts ended up losing his life.
CO levels in the pool area were measured at 800 parts per million, which is 16 times higher than what is considered 'acceptable' according to Niles police.
To make it worse, officials confirmed there was no carbon monoxide detector to let the kids or hotel employees know.
Back in May, when Bryan's mother announced she was filing a lawsuit against the hotel, her lawyer, Ven Johnson, said, “You have an obligation to make sure that you reasonably inspect your property to make sure it’s safe.”
That's why Paula Watts, Bryan's mother, hired Ven to hold someone accountable for her son's death.
Now, enshrined in the foyer she calls 'Bryan's Room,' she's opening up about how her life has changed in the past eight months.
“I’m having to go from two children to one...I don’t think there’s a day that goes by, even if it’s just for two minutes, I cry still, but I’m reminded that I’m still here. It’s a new day, a new day that the Lord has made that we shall rejoice and be glad in it, so I do it," said Paula Watts.
She's filled a table with pictures of Bryan, but these snapshots of happier times don't stifle all the tears.
“Ging back to work, I’ll be at work, and I’ll just be doing my job and tears just start coming out of my eyes, and a lot of people don’t know what’s going on, so they just be looking at me like I’m crazy like why is that girl crying, but it’s life, you know, you have to," said Paula.
She also feels like she has to fight.
“As the months go on, I feel someone needs to be held accountable for the actions that had been made. As I stated then, if there was a carbon monoxide detector, I’d be celebrating Bryan’s birthday with him this year. If there was on their job and doing what they’re supposed to have been doing, I would be celebrating Bryan’s birthday with him this year," said Bryan's mom.
Bryan would have been 14 on Christmas Eve.
“I refuse to let another person lose their life over carbon monoxide detectors not working in their home, not working in the hotel, not working anywhere where a person lay their head. It don’t feel good losing a child. Bryan didn’t lose his life to someone in the streets; he didn’t lose his self to some harm, he didn’t lose himself to stupidity, he lost his life to something that should have been done a long time ago," said Paula.
Her lawyer, Ven Johnson, is working to hold someone accountable for not doing their job.
“Her strength gives me strength, and what I want to do is I want to prevent another Bryan or another Paula or anybody from ever suffering...and what we need to do together, all of us is to take this horrible circumstance and try to make something as good as possible from some incredible tragedy that so many people have known," said Johnson.
He says they're still in the beginning stages of the process, but the original defendants have had the chance to point the finger at the person they think is responsible.
So now, his team has added more defendants, including the previous owner of the Quality Inn, and the individual who actually inspected the hotel.
“You go to sleep in a hotel, what do you assume? You assume that everything’s taken care of. We all do," said Ven.
“No money in the world is going to bring Bryan back, and I understand that, but legally something has to be done," said Paula.
She's letting Ven handle the legal side and God take care of the rest.
“There’s a time when we live, there’s a time to be born. There’s a time to die. There’s a time when we’ll see each other again in heaven where there will be no more tears, there will be no more sorrow, there will be no more pain. We’ll all be together again in heaven," said Paula.
The Watts family now carries around portable carbon monoxide detectors, which you can purchase for less than $20 apiece.