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‘Their eyes were wide open’: Evergreen student dead, 2 injured from carbon monoxide poisoning

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The mother of an Evergreen State College student who died on campus, likely of carbon monoxide poisoning, is calling for a “thorough investigation.”

Her son’s girlfriend is one of two other students stricken, too, she said. She is expected to survive.

Now some students are raising questions about maintenance on campus.

The students here said they have been concerned for some time about the condition of the buildings here. And this tragedy has only heightened their worries.

Grief is hanging heavily over this area of student housing at leafy Evergreen State College. It is especially difficult for those who watched the sad events unfold Monday night.

“I thought they were definitely unresponsive and their eyes were definitely wide open,” said Jacob Benjamin, his voice breaking. “And so, I thought, you know.”

Benjamin could see from his kitchen window as medics discovered the lifeless body of 21-year-old Jonathan Rodriguez.

He said he didn’t know Rodriguez. 

“No, but, I had seen him around a few times,” said Benjamin, his face stained with tears. “I don’t know.”

Two other students were also taken out of the house. One is in critical condition, and the other is serious.

Campus officials said they are tending to the families of all three students as they look for answers.

“We’re working hard to make all the necessary corrections to ensure, as much as we can, that this kind of thing never happens again,” said Dr. Dexter Gordon, Evergreen’s Executive Vice President. “Because we’ve never had anything like this.”

But several students said there are infrastructure issues on the campus that have long worried them.

“It’s rough, it’s like, the conditions here are just terrible,” said senior Kris Pennington, sighing. “It’s just a lot of like nickel and dimeing it. And we’re not really getting anything out of it except for like mold and stuff. Like we have a hole in our roof that hasn’t been fixed for like four days.”

Dr. Gordon said some of the students’ complaints are news to him.

“Well, the hole in the roof story for example, I’m hearing that for the first time,” he said. “And I will immediately talk to the appropriate persons to make sure we address that.”

As for the mold, Dr. Gordon said that was investigated and it turned out not to be mold.

The Washington State Patrol is leading the investigation. Other state agencies will be involved as well.