Coroner: Victims at Allen Benedict Court died of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO)– On Monday, Coroner Gary Watts released the cause of death of two people found inside their apartments at Allen Benedict Court.

According to Watts, toxicology test results confirm that Calvin Witherspoon, Jr. and Derrick Caldwell Roper, both of Allen Benedict Court, Columbia, SC, died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Watts says the results are a follow up to the earlier autopsy and identification from January 18th.

Last Friday the Police and Columbia Fire Department evacuated Allen Benedict Court due to what they said was multiple gas leaks.
The Housing Authority’s attorney, former Mayor Bob Coble, says “Director Walker and his staff are committed to taking care of all CHA residents, particularly those displaced by this shutdown. This situation is unfortunate, and we are working with the City of Columbia to find the best possible resolution for all residents involved.”


Officials investigate reports of gas near Allen Benedict Court apartments/Matt Perron

Officials investigate reports of gas near Allen Benedict Court apartments/Matt Perron


COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO): The Fire and Police departments made the decision to evacuate everyone from the Allen Benedict Apartments until further notice because of gas leak concerns. Many residents were unsure of where exactly they’re going to be staying and if the Columbia Housing authority was going to help them at all. Residents had 2-3 hours to gather as many belongings as they could before having the no trespassing sign posted on their door.

“Everybody gotta go…. Until otherwise,” Peter Williams said, a resident at the apartment buildings.

Residents of Allen Benedict Court don’t know when or if they’ll ever be able to come back home.

“I raised my kids out here. My youngest daughter is going to graduate from high school this year in May,” Williams said.

Williams lived here for five years but now he’s having to pack what he can into his four-door sedan before going to a hotel.  According to the Fire Department, 65 units had high levels of gas and CO2 emissions from stoves, hot water heaters, and furnaces. Now, more than 400 residents from 26 buildings are having to find somewhere else to call home.

“Fire department, in the last 4 months, the fire department has been out here 6 times that I know of. Six times,” Williams said.

The Columbia Housing Authority has provided an operation center at the Cecil Tillis Center to put up residents in vacant Hotel rooms and suitable units at other apartment complexes until they know when residents can officially move out of Allen Benedict Court. Although residents are hesitant to leave their homes, they say they’re glad something is finally being done.

“I would like to see all of this torn down. Like they tore down Gonzales Gardens,” Williams said.

The Allen Benedict units are the third oldest apartments in the country and even though Columbia Housing Authority says many changes will be made to make sure gas leaks are never an issue again, some residents say it’s too little too late.

“Putting band-aids on craters is just not going to work,” Williams said.

Columbia Fire Chief Jenkins said there are two critical things people can do to make sure their homes are safe from gas and carbon monoxide leaks:

  1. Have a carbon monoxide detectors in your home
  2. Never take any smell of gas lightly. Always call 911 if you suspect you smell gas. Jenkins says they do gas checks all the time and are happy to do it.