Mountain View police: Suicide, accidental death to blame in fume-filled building

Milk Pail store director and teen son found dead in evacuated California Street unit Wednesday

Police said they believe suicide and an accidental death are to blame in the deaths of a man and his teenaged son Wednesday.

The two bodies found in an apartment complex in Mountain View on Wednesday have been identified as 53-year-old Lian "James" Liu and his 17-year-old son, William Liu by the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner's Office. Liu was the store director of the Milk Pail Market in Mountain View.

"While we are continuing to investigate this case, at this point in time the deaths of our two victims appear to be the result of a suicide along with one accidental death," said Mountain View police Monday via the department's blog. The coroner's office reported that the cause of death for Liu and his son William is still pending as of Monday morning, as toxicology reports are not yet back.

Liu was not only the store director but also the brother-in-law of Steve Rasmussen, owner of the Milk Pail Market. According to a Facebook post by Kai Rasmussen, Liu's niece, he was a "brilliant manager, buyer, and grocer who was greatly admired by our staff, customers, and vendors alike."

Police continue continue to investigate the source of the noxious smell that broke out at 2025 California St. Sept. 24 and triggered an evacuation. The bodies of both victims were located in one of the apartment units by fire crews.

Investigators later found that calcium sulfide and sulfuric acid were present in the the complex at 2025 California St., as well as the byproducts of both chemicals -- sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide, according to Shino Tanaka, spokeswoman for the Mountain View Police Department.

Hydrogen sulfide in lower concentrations can cause nausea, eye irritation and headaches, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration. Higher concentrations can lead to unconsciousness, serious eye damage and death.

Sulfur dioxide is a colorless gas with a pungent odor that causes irritation to the eyes and skin, and can lead to eye damage, lung damage and skin burns.

Police are not releasing any additional information on the investigation.

Police received reports of the noxious "rotten egg" smell in the apartment complex at 6:09 p.m. Wednesday night, and evacuated residents in the area until 8 a.m. the next morning.

During the evacuation and investigation, four responding officers were sickened by the fumes and reported feeling lightheaded. They were treated and released.

Tanaka confirmed that the noxious smell was not caused by a gas leak, and that no suicide note had been left at the apartment where the two bodies were located. Police had originally suspected a gas leak caused the noxious smell, and PG&E crews shut off gas lines in the area.

Another apartment building adjacent to the complex was also evacuated, and an estimated 30 or 40 evacuees were sheltered at the nearby community center on Rengstorff Avenue.

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1 person likes this
Posted by cid
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2014 at 10:36 am

cid is a registered user.

OKAY, so what are those chemicals normally used for and why might they be in an apartment complex. Are they cleaning product ingredients, or some illegal drug ingredients? A tiny bit more detailed information might be offered, please.

4 people like this
Posted by KT
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 29, 2014 at 11:04 am

If you Google "calcium sulfide and sulfuric acid" you'll "Milk of lime, Ca(OH)2, reacts with elemental sulfur to give a "lime-sulfur", which has been used as an insecticide. The active ingredient is probably a calcium polysulfide, not CaS.[1]
It reacts with acids such as hydrochloric acid to release toxic hydrogen sulfide gas."
[Portion removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by cid
a resident of another community
on Sep 30, 2014 at 11:36 am

cid is a registered user.

But, what the heck was it doing :combining" in an apartment building?

1 person likes this
Posted by rick
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2014 at 6:50 pm

rick is a registered user.

The article indicates that the police investigation is ongoing. Maybe in a few months we'll get the rest of the story. Milk Pail put a full-page heartfelt memoriam on the back page of a local newspaper today where their ads usually are.

3 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

I am so sorry for this devastating loss. That this could've harmed others is terrifying.

My condolences for the loves ones of them both. I know that the customers and Milk Pail community are feeling the loss.

Like this comment
Posted by iSez
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 12, 2014 at 4:02 pm

iSez is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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