Sonoma County sheriff identifies 2 men found dead in Sea Ranch home with generator switched on
Authorities investigating the deaths of two men found in a Sea Ranch home Wednesday say a generator sitting inside the house was switched on with the fuel tank empty, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday.
The two men were identified as Gene Beauchamp, 74, of Colusa, and Phil Mabray, 61, of Biggs, in Butte County.
While the county coroner is working to determine the exact cause of death and when the men died, Deputy Rob Dillion, the Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said Thursday that evidence at the home points to carbon monoxide poisoning.
He said there was a distinct odor of fumes in the home on Spinnaker Close where the men were found. There were no signs of foul play or trauma, Dillion said. There was no indication it was a suicide attempt.
The department, in a Thursday update on its investigation, issued a public warning against using generators inside a building, noting that it can lead to the deadly buildup of fumes.
The Sheriff’s Office did not say how the generator had been deployed, but hundreds of Sea Ranch homes remained without power through at least Tuesday evening in the wake of a fierce Jan. 4 wind-driven storm that knocked out electricity for up to 20,000 homes and business across Sonoma County.
The deaths, if linked to storm-related fallout, would add to the toll of four people killed this week and last in Sonoma and Mendocino counties since the heaviest storm activity began Jan. 4.
A tree crew first found the men’s bodies Wednesday morning when they came to the house on the east side of Highway 1 to remove a fir that had earlier fallen on the residence. After not getting a response at the door, the crew entered the home and discovered the bodies, Dillion said.
After that, deputies and Cal Fire officials were dispatched about 11:20 a.m. to the home in the 300 block of Spinnaker Close, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Cal Fire firefighters found the men in separate bedrooms and pronounced them dead, the Sheriff’s Office said. The department did not disclose any relationship between the men.
Dillion said it appeared the deaths were unrelated to the downed tree on the home’s roof. He did not know who called the tree crew to the address.
The generator was found in a hallway, its switch on and its fuel tank empty, the department said.
The Sea Ranch is a planned community of about 1,900 homes along the northernmost Sonoma Coast. Multiple residents contacted by The Press Democrat said they did not know the two men found in the house.
Neither of the men appear linked by property records to the home, according to county officials.
Attempts to reach listed owners of the involved home were not immediately successful Thursday.
According to Sea Ranch officials, about a third of the homes in the community are occupied full time, a third are weekenders and the remainder are vacation and long-term rentals.
Menka Sethi, community manager of The Sea Ranch Association, declined to comment.
The county coroner is conducting a toxicology report, which could point to any role potential carbon monoxide poisoning played in the deaths.
“Generators release noxious fumes that can result in carbon monoxide poisoning and death. Always operate your generator outside and at least 20 feet away from occupied buildings,” the Sheriff’s Office said in its news release.
North Sonoma Coast Fire Chief Bonnie Plakos said she did not have any information beyond what was released by the Sheriff’s Office.
A tree crew was at the property on Thursday working to remove the downed fir tree resting on the home’s roof.
The four previous storm-related deaths in Sonoma and Mendocino counties include a 43-year-old Ukiah woman who drowned in her flood-trapped car east of Forestville, where her body was discovered in the vehicle off Trenton-Healdsburg Road on Wednesday.
A 68-year-old Fort Bragg woman was killed early Monday when a tree fell on her home as she slept.
A 2-year-old Occidental boy was killed Jan. 4 when a tree fell on his home. A 37-year-old Elk Grove man was killed Jan. 7 in a Manchester vehicle crash while he worked as a contracted crew member for Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
You can reach Staff Writer Madison Smalstig at email@example.com. On Twitter @madi.smals.
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