A Nashville cafe owner who mistakenly locked himself inside a walk-in cooler accidentally suffocated to death — and dry ice was the likely culprit, authorities said Tuesday.
A co-owner and another employee found Jay Luther, 47, trapped inside the cooler of Germantown Cafe East on Monday morning. He had been there overnight, according to reports.
Luther’s death was “an unfortunate coming together of circumstances,” the medical examiner’s office told The Tennessean newspaper.
The tragic turn of events began Friday night, when a power outage struck the restaurant and the staff decided to put dry ice in the freezer area so food wouldn’t spoil. The lights came back on Sunday night and Luther decided to check on the cooler by himself, reports said.
At some point, the door closed behind him. But the button to open the cooler from the inside wasn’t working. To make matters worse, Luther didn’t have a cell phone with him, Nashville’s City Paper said.
Just as frustrating, police were actually at the property after a robbery alarm was set off from inside the freezer. But cops found the restaurant’s doors secured and no trace of a break-in, and decided to classify the call as a false alarm, officials said.
Authorities believe Luther suffocated from carbon dioxide vapors — and that the dry ice was the reason. It releases CO2, which can displace oxygen in tight spaces.
The medical examiner’s office said Luther was probably overwhelmed after just a few minutes. His official autopsy report will be out in 10 to 14 weeks.
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