A dead man. It’s not the surprise anyone expects to find in an Airbnb.
But that’s exactly what eight women discovered last month hours after checking into their short-term rental in Treme to celebrate a bachelorette party.
Word of the grisly discovery began to make the rounds this week, when one of the women — Abbey Donahue — decided to tell the tale on her personal blog.
According to Donahue, she and her friends drove 10 hours from St. Louis to New Orleans on March 15 after several of their flights were grounded. After they checked into their Airbnb, they spotted a man sitting motionless on a futon in an attached apartment, technically part of their rental.
The man’s face was out of view, and it looked like he might be watching TV or taking a nap, she said. So the women figured it was the owner, or a last-minute renter the owner decided to take in for the busy St. Patrick's Day weekend.
"We were already kind of confused by the area, so we were like, ‘Oh, did you see a guy was in there?' ” Donahue said, adding that they wanted to respect his privacy. “That (he might be dead) is no one's first assumption."
But when the group returned from the French Quarter later that night, the man was still sitting on the futon in the same position. Looking closer, they realized he did not appear to be breathing.
The women called 911, then entered the side apartment and checked to see if the man had a pulse. They found him cold to the touch and with foam around his mouth.
Donahue quickly called Airbnb to report the situation, fearing the man was the homeowner.
“I think it really helped having two nurses in our group, and they handled it really well,” Donahue said. “I was shaking the entire time and my adrenaline was going. I was really focused on making sure that everyone in our group was safe.”
The Orleans Parish coroner later determined that the 26-year-old Dallas native had died from an accidental drug overdose.
Police suggested multiple possibilities for how the man got into the apartment, but it remains a mystery, Donahue said. An Airbnb spokesman confirmed Tuesday that the man had not rented the apartment, and he did not appear to have an Airbnb account.
The owner of the home told Airbnb he had no connection to the man and also did not know how the man entered the apartment, which had a separate keypad lock from the home's main entry.
The company quickly told the group it would cover their relocation to a hotel and would refund their money, according to an Airbnb spokesman. The group packed up and moved that night to a hotel in the Central Business District.
"At that point we were just ready to get out. It was very traumatic," Donahue said.
Donahue’s blog documented the remainder of their stay, but she said the group decided this week that the post should be taken down out of respect for the man’s family.
Before their departure on March 17, the women shared their story around town, drawing stunned reactions and even convincing a swamp tour operator to turn his boat around when they explained why they were running late.
With little in information at that point, they referred to the man as "Roman," in a nod to the New Orleans street. At one point, a bartender suggested they raise a toast in his honor. They quickly obliged.
“Finding a dead body is scary, but when you know it’s someone who has a family and a life, it’s (heartbreaking), for sure," Donahue said, expressing condolences to the man's family.
“When it comes to New Orleans, it was one of the coolest cities. We figured if this person did not get to live out his life, we should celebrate him in New Orleans all weekend long."
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