According to a recent report, a Florida nursing home administrator was charged with causing the overheating deaths of nine patients after Hurricane Irma in 2017. The deaths began occurring three days after Hurricane Irma knocked out a transformer that powered the cooling system. The victims ranged in age from 57 to 99 and had body temperatures of up to 108 degrees. The trial for this case started recently, and the prosecutor alleges that the administrator failed to give adequate direction to his staff after power to the facility’s air conditioning system was lost. It is alleged that the administrator failed to order the evacuation of patients to a hospital across the street that had working air conditioning.
In order for the administrator to be found guilty of manslaughter, Florida law requires that prosecutors prove that the administrator acted recklessly, and showed gross and careless disregard for his patients’ safety. The administrator could face 15 years in prison if convicted. The administrator was originally charged with 12 deaths, but three of the cases were dropped. Three employees who were previously charged but had their charges dropped will be testifying against the administrator during the trial. According to allegations, the administrator directed his staff to buy fans and had portable AC units installed, but instead of making the temperatures better, it made the temperatures on the second floor where the death occurred worse.
The defense attorney has argued that the administrator did everything in his power to protect his patients, including having staff notify Florida Power & Light about the situation immediately after the power went down, and updating the company several times over the next two days. According to the defense counsel, the power company did not send a crew until there were news reports about patients dying. The problem ultimately took 10 minutes to fix. According to a state report, before the storm hit, the administrator and his staff began to prepare by purchasing extra food and water and fuel for the generator. Additionally, once the air conditioner failed, the administrator and staff called the power company, but no one came to help. They then proceeded to call the then-Governoer Rick Scott’s cellphone and city officials, which still did not turn up any results.