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Autopsy results released for 2 men found dead after gas leaks at Columbia apartments

Columbia Fire Department officials clear apartments at Allen Benedict Court after a gas leaked was discovered Friday Jan. 18, 2019, in Columbia, SC.
Columbia Fire Department officials clear apartments at Allen Benedict Court after a gas leaked was discovered Friday Jan. 18, 2019, in Columbia, SC. gmcintyre@thestate.com

Coroner’s officials released the causes of death for two men who were found dead at a public housing complex in Columbia earlier this month.

Richland County Coroner Gary Watts announced Monday that 61-year-old Calvin Witherspoon Jr. and 30-year-old Derrick Caldwell Roper both died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Toxicology testing confirmed the cause of death, Watts said.

Both men were found dead on Jan. 17 in separate units at Allen Benedict Court Apartments, where they lived.

Additional gas leaks were found at the complex later that night, and public safety officials ordered that the entire complex be evacuated.

Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said an inspection showed that 63 units had heightened levels of hazardous gases. More than 400 residents of the 26 buildings were ordered to leave.

Residents have reported smelling gas at the complex before.

Two residents have filed a lawsuit against the Columbia Housing Authority alleging that the agency neglected to maintain the buildings and repair gas leaks reported at the 80-year-old apartments.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Reporters Sarah Ellis and Travis Bland contributed.

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