UPDATE | Firefighters testing for toxic substance after man's death

By: Staff Email
By: Staff Email
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Friday, August 1, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- "I thought it was the trash man and I was asleep and my son came in and said Momma Walton is dead," said neighbor Essie Hopps.

Loud sounds woke up Essie Hopps around 5 this morning. EMT's arrived to this home on Wheeler Road just two doors down.

Inside, 78-year-old Drue Stoke's found her grandson Walton Peterson dead on her couch.

"It's a sad thing. It's a sad thing," Hopps said.

She called 911. When the coroner arrived, he says the grandmother passed out in front of him. EMT took her to the hospital. Neighbors say this is just the latest heartbreak for Stokes.

"She had passed out and quite natural. You lose all 3 of your children in 5 years and then your grandson," Hopps said.

The coroner says something else struck him when he walked in the home. He says he smelled a "foul, musty, chemical'' odor.

"I would smell odors. I would be sitting on the porch and I would smell odors," Hopps said.

Because of the strong smell, the Augusta Fire Department, Haz-Mat Team, and Code Enforcement checked out both stokes home and her grandson's. Both houses are right next to each other and both quarantined.

"The conditions of the interior of the homes and so forth, zoning has decided to go ahead and block any entry going inside the homes," said Chief Wayne Taylor, special ops with Richmond County Fire Department.

The coroner says the cause of death is still unknown, but pesticide poisoning could be the culprit. His body was sent to Newberry, South Carolina, where they are doing a chemical analysis on his blood.

"The conditions were kind of deplorable. Not taken care of," said Chief Taylor.

Back in June, one Jefferson County woman died from pesticide poisoning after a family member sprayed her house with the chemical. Experts shut down an entire hospital, worried those who tried to save her were also exposed.

Hopps now worries for her neighbor because now that her grandson is gone, she's alone.

"He would stay close around because he knew there wasn't anybody to see about his grandmother but him," Hopps said.

Original story

Friday, August 1, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- While investigating her grandson's death, the coroner said he found a woman passed out in her home Friday morning initiating a quarantine.

Walton Peterson, 38, was found dead on his grandmother's couch Friday at 5 a.m., firefighters said. Peterson's home is located on Second Avenue in Augusta next door to his grandmother, Drue Stokes', home.

Chief Deputy Kenneth Boose said he smelled a "foul, musty chemical odor" in the Stokes residence while investigating the scene. After visiting Peterson's house next door, Boose said he found Stokes on the floor sweating and said she was confused. Boose called 911 to take Stokes to GRU.

Crews shut down Second Avenue around the two homes on Friday to test for carbon monoxide and other substances.

Peterson was transported to the Newberry Pathology in Newberry where an autopsy and chemical testing will be done, the coroner said. The Richmond County Health Department and the State CDC in Atlanta were notified of the incident.


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