Update: The body found in the vehicle has been identified as physics freshman Osvaldo Ponce. The gas in the vehicle was identified as hydrogen sulfide. The gas is “colorless, flammable, extremely hazardous gas with a ‘rotten egg’ smell,” according to the Occupational Safety and and Health Administration (OSHA) website.
Exposure to high levels of hydrogen sulfide, also known as “swamp gas,” can result in death within a few breaths. The gas occurs naturally in crude petroleum, natural gas, hot springs and from the bacterial breakdown of human and animal wastes, according to the OSHA website.
Update: Authorities have identified the body as an 18-year-old male Cal Poly student, according to public affairs team leader Stacia Momburg. The student’s identity will not be released until the family has been notified.
The Hazardous Materials Team has made at least one pass through the car, but plan on doing a second. The body is still in the vehicle.
A dead body was found in a car in Cal Poly parking lot R2 Friday afternoon, leading to the closure of R2 and G2 parking lots, as well as Slack Street, which borders campus.
The University Police Department (UPD) was first notified after 2 p.m. that there was unresponsive person in a car with signs warning of “hazardous chemicals,” UPD chief Bill Watton said.
UPD sent an officer to investigate, and found a car with hand-made warning signs and a deceased person inside, Watton said. UPD then realized that the situation was serious and called for extra help, Watton said.
“We backed up from that point with the hazardous gases that may be present with the owner and the signs,” Watton said.
UPD then called in the San Luis Obispo Fire Department, County of San Luis Obispo Environmental Health Services and the San Luis Obispo County Hazardous Materials Team.
Watton said he does not have information at this point on whether the deceased was a student at Cal Poly, but UPD is still investigating. They are also looking into how a person died in the parking lot.
“We’re still investigating,” Watton said. “It does not appear that there was any foul play at this point.”
Currently, it could be several hours until the parking lot is cleared as safe, and until then, dozens of students wait to return home for spring break after finishing their finals.
Biological sciences freshman Cayla Clark arrived at the parking lot shortly before it was closed off to wait for her friend, who was giving her a ride home to Fresno. An officer approached her and told her to either get in her car and leave or stay on campus indefinitely, she said.
“They were like, ‘Get in your car or else you’re going to be trapped here for hours,’” Clark said.
But Clark, who didn’t have the keys to her friend’s car, said she had to move her suitcases to the sidewalk on the edge of the parking lot instead and wait until authorities cleared the area as safe.
Clark wasn’t the only one waiting. Biomedical engineering freshman Angelo Ciaraglia sat next to his duffel bag in an empty parking space several feet from UPD’s tape barrier.
Ciaraglia said he understood that the police were doing their job, but just wanted to get home — this was before the police released the information about the deceased person.
“I’m just kind of tired because I had two finals today,” Ciaraglia said. “It’s just kind of annoying.”