Jurors hear differing explanations for Monessen woman’s carbon monoxide poisoning
A Monessen woman’s carbon monoxide poisoning death in a county housing authority apartment was caused by her improper use of an oven to dry clothes or a faulty ventilation system that violated building codes, according to court testimony.
Westmoreland County jurors heard testimony Wednesday from two forensic engineers who offered differing explanations for what caused the Feb. 4, 2013, death of 77-year-old Sandra Troilo in her Eastgate Manor apartment.
Troilo’s family contends in its wrongful death lawsuit that the Westmoreland County Housing Authority, which rented her the efficiency apartment, is liable for her death because the unit had an insufficient ventilation system that caused the living space to fill with poisoned air from the natural gas oven.
The authority said Troilo, who had lived in the apartment for less than two weeks before her death, improperly used the oven when she left its door open to dry an undergarment that hung nearby.
Closing arguments in the trial before Judge Chris Scherer will begin Thursday morning.
“She would have died even if she used the oven properly,” testified Mark A. Sokalski, an engineer at Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc. in Export.
Sokalski told jurors that Troilo’s apartment was not properly ventilated and was in violation of several federal building codes that require airflow to guard against carbon monoxide poisoning.
He said he found a tight seal under the apartment’s front door that prevented the flow of fresh air into the unit. Windows were sealed and when closed did not allow for air to enter the apartment.
Dan McDonough, a engineer with ARCCA Inc. in Pittsburgh, was the lone witness for the housing authority and testified that the apartment’s ventilation met state building codes. He said the oven functioned properly but should not have been used to dry clothing with an open door.
He said tests performed with the oven functioning for up to four hours in a proper manner, with the door closed, found air quality in the apartment to be at safe levels.
“Conditions in the room did not reach dangerous conditions,” McDonough testified.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or [email protected].