Co-Owner Of Restaurant Found Dead In Walk-In Cooler - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Co-Owner Of Restaurant Found Dead In Walk-In Cooler

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Police are investigating after the body of the co-owner of an east Nashville restaurant was found inside a walk-in cooler on Monday morning.

An employee at Germantown Cafe East had showed up for work around 9:15 a.m. to find the restaurant doors locked, and called the other co-owner to get inside. Once inside, they found the body of 47-year-old Jay Luther inside the walk-in cooler.

Police said there was a power outage on Friday night, and the restaurant put dry ice inside the cooler to preserve the food. When the power was restored on Sunday, police think he went inside to check on the food and somehow got trapped inside.

A button that would have opened the cooler from the inside was not working. Police think that Luther may have died from the carbon dioxide fumes created by the dry ice.

"Dry ice is carbon dioxide in a solid form," explained Dr. Corey Slovis, director of emergency medicine at Vanderbilt University Hospital.

Under normal circumstances dry ice is a safe material, but in a small, air-tight space it can be deadly as it dissipates.

"All the sudden you're breathing air that has less and less oxygen and more and more carbon dioxide," Dr. Slovis said.

How quickly the affects of the poisoning take place depend on the size of the space and how much ice is present.

"One might begin to get a little dizzy, feel like you had to sit down and then pass out," according to Dr. Slovis.

Metro Police said there was evidence that Luther tried to escape the cooler.

"There is a possibility that Mr. Luther tried to use a piece of cardboard or something to go into the latch to try to open it. There is evidence inside the cooler to suggest that," said Metro Police spokesman Don Aaron.

Officials said that cooler is equipped with a robbery alarm and on Sunday night the alarm was tripped. Metro Police officers responded to the restaurant and found that all the doors to be locked and secure and a sign on the door giving notice that the business was closed due to a power outage.  

According to police, electrical surges have been known to cause errant alarms, so the officers on the scene chose not to force their way into the restaurant and reported the alarm as false. 

Police said Luther did not have his cell phone with him.  It was found Monday in his nearby condo.

Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson has ordered a review of Sunday night's response to ensure that it was appropriate based on the information available at the time.

Police continue to investigate, but believe it was likely an accident and do not believe foul play was involved.

(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.)

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