A woman apparently died Wednesday after asphyxiating sewer gases which came from a sink that had been disassembled, authorities said Friday.
Bernice A. Weaver, 44, was unconscious when she was discovered lying on the kitchen floor in front of the sink in a Northland home. The plumbing underneath the sink had been disassembled.
Weaver was rushed to the North Kansas City Hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Officers arrived to the home at 334 N. Belmont Blvd. at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to a police report.
The home was filled with what appeared to be the strong odor of sewer gas, according to the report.
The home was rented by a woman who appeared to have a limited mental capacity, according to the police report. The renter reportedly had allowed Weaver, who was homeless, to stay at the residence.
The landlord told police that she would have a plumber make any needed repairs.
The Kansas City Star reported that a plumber told the homeowner that the removal of the trap under the kitchen sink left an open sewer line into the house. The plumber also detected sewer gas coming from a basement floor drain.
Because Weaver was taken to the hospital where she died, the Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office did not send a coroner to the scene as per office protocol. The examiner's office later went to the scene once it was determined it was safe by the fire department. Photographs were taken at the scene, said Dan Ferguson, a spokesman for the county ME office.
"The case of Bernice Weaver is being handled by our ME's office," he said. "A complete autopsy is being performed."
The autopsy itself was performed Friday. Toxicology results could take up to two months.
Peggy Sutton said she has been renting the home since 1995. She said she allowed her homeless friend to live with her starting in January.
Sutton said the home has long had plumbing issues.
"The water wouldn't drain and the water was almost up to the top in both sinks," she said. "So we knew there was a problem."
She said she had thought the pipes needed to be cleaned. The home's owner, Shirley Markle, told the newspaper that her tenant had not reported any recent plumbing or sink issues.
Markle told the newspaper that a plumber had come out, but Sutton insisted that a plumber had not been out to make any repairs since her friend died.
After returning from a trip to the store, Sutton said she found her friend's body. She said she tried to perform CPR but those efforts were unsuccessful.
She speculates that Weaver used strong drain cleaner without opening the windows, and that knocked her out. She said she found a bottle of Liquid Gas next to her friend's body, which also has a rotten gas smell like that authorities smelled when they arrived.
"She opened up the liquid fire," Sutton said. "That stuff smells like rotten eggs ... you must ventilate. She didn't ventilate."
The victim's daughter said her mother had various medical issues including emphysema, asthma and Bell's palsy. Sutton said Weaver previously had suffered two strokes.
Weaver's daughter, Yvonne Lahmann, said her mother liked to make repairs.
"She's a fixer upper. I joke with her and call her Bob the Builder because she tries to fix everything," she recalled.
She said she does not see how a simple plumbing fix could have taken her mother's life.
"They're thinking it's from sewer gas from this house," she said.
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