Testimony begins in Monessen woman’s carbon monoxide poisoning
A Westmoreland County jury will decide whether the county’s housing authority is liable for the 2013 carbon monoxide poisoning death of a woman in the Monessen apartment where she had lived for less than two weeks.
Testimony started Tuesday in the wrongful death civil trial before Judge Chris Scherer in which the family of Sandra Troilo claims the county Housing Authority failed to properly monitor the air quality and ventilation in her efficiency apartment at Eastgate Manor.
Troilo died Feb. 4, 2013, at age 77. She was found by a grandson, and first responders immediately determined the apartment was filled with deadly carbon monoxide gas.
Family lawyer Alan Silko in his opening statement to the jury said the apartment was sealed shut and allowed no air to flow in or out. Troilo’s body was found on her bed, a few feet away from a gas oven and stove that apparently was used to dry clothes sometime the previous night. An undergarment was found hanging from a dial in front of the open oven, Silko said.
“It is an odd thing to do, but our expert will say it should not have been a problem if there was proper ventilation in that apartment,” Silko told jurors.
The lawsuit contends new windows, installed in the apartment in 2009, were sealed shut, and air was unable to flow under the unit’s front door. There were no working vents in the apartment, Silko said.
The apartment’s air quality was never specifically tested, but the unit met federal safety requirements, testified Michael Washowich, the authority’s executive director.
“We never had any complaints about the air quality in that unit. I think we performed inspections to the best of our ability. We had multiple tenants who lived in that apartment and didn’t have any complaints,” Washowich testified.
He conceded that housing authority inspectors never tested the apartment for ventilation issues prior to Troilo moving in.
Paul S. Mazeski, the authority’s lawyer, told jurors that Troilo’s death was a tragedy but not one caused by the agency that oversees more than 2,500 public-housing units in the county. That includes Eastgate Manor, a high-rise apartment building constructed in 1962.
“The defendant had no previous knowledge of ventilation issues or problems with the stove,” Mazeski said. “There was no understanding the stove would have been used in that manner.”
Testimony is expected to continue Wednesday.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or [email protected].