Eight people have died after Hurricane Irma knocked out air
conditioning at a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida, police
While the cause of death was not immediately clear, the
facility, Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, evacuated
all its residents to hospitals because of the cooling problem.
Most of the deceased were treated for respiratory distress,
dehydration and heat-related issues, officials said. Their ages
ranged from 71 to 99, the Hollywood Police Department said at a
news conference this evening.
Hollywood Fire Rescue crews responded to a call at about 3 a.m.
today for a patient who was reported to be in cardiac arrest,
and the patient was transported to a hospital, police said.
At 4 a.m., firefighters were sent back to the facility to
transport a patient reported to be experiencing breathing
problems, police said. After the second call, fire officials
called the state Department of Children and Families to report
concerns about the facility.
A third call later came in as well, police said. After fire
rescue crews arrived, three patients were found dead on the
second floor of the nursing home, and several other patients
were found to be in “varying degrees of medical distress,”
Of the eight deaths, seven occurred today, and one Tuesday
All remaining patients were removed from the center by 9:15
a.m., after additional rescue units were called in and a
complete evacuation of the facility was ordered, police said.
PHOTO: Hurricane Irma knocks out air conditioning at the
Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, Fla.
Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief tonight said the center
had contacted the county’s Emergency Operations Center Tuesday
morning to alert the health and medical team that it had lost
power. The incident was then reported as a “mission-critical
request” to Florida Power & Light for power restoration.
Later that day, the center said it had done a survey of the
property and that a tree had landed on a transformer, Sharief
said. When asked by emergency workers whether they had any
medical needs or emergencies, center officials “did not request
assistance or indicate any medical emergency existed,” Sharief
Officials said 18 additional patients from an adjoining
facility were also relocated because of the investigation,
although those patients were “not medically compromised.”
Dr. Randy Katz, director of emergency services at Memorial
Regional Hospital, which is next to the nursing home but is not
affiliated with it, said there were extremely high temperatures
on the nursing home’s second floor.
A person handling air conditioning for the facility told ABC
Fort Lauderdale affiliate WPLG-TV that a fuse was damaged
during Irma, resulting in cooling issues for the past few days.
The facility itself has power, the individual said.
Nursing home administrator Jorge Carballo said in a statement
that the facility was evacuated this morning “due to a
prolonged power failure to the transformer which powered the
facility’s air conditioning system as a result of the
“Unfortunately, early this morning several patients experienced
distress and there were three fatalities at the facility,”
followed by other fatalities at “the hospital they were
transferred to,” Carballo said.
“Facility administration is cooperating fully with relevant
authorities to investigate the circumstances that led to this
unfortunate and tragic outcome. Our hearts go out to the
families and friends of those who were affected,” he added.
In a later statement today , Carballo expressed hcondolences to
the family members of the deceased and provided further details
on what transpired at the nursing home.
“The center and its medical and administrative staff diligently
prepared for the impact of Hurricane Irma,” Carballo said. “We
took part in emergency management preparedness calls with local
and state emergency officials, other nursing homes and health
regulators. While our center did not lose power during the
storm, it did lose one transformer that powers the air
conditioning unit. The center immediately contacted Florida
Power & Light and continued to follow up with them for
status updates on when repairs would be made. Outreach was also
made to local emergency officials and first responders.”
The center had a generator on standby “in compliance with
state regulations,” as well as seven days of food, water, ice
and other supplies, including gas for the generator, Carballo
added. After the air conditioning went down, staff set up
“mobile cooling units and fans to cool the facility,”
Carballo said. Staff also “continually checked on residents’
well-being” to ensure they were “hydrated and as comfortable
as possible,” Carballo said.
“We are devastated by these losses,” Carballo said. “We are
fully cooperating with all authorities and regulators to
assess what went wrong and to ensure our other residents are
The Florida governor’s office said Department of Health
officials were “in contact with Larkin Community Hospital
Behavioral Health Services management and the Rehabilitation
Center at Hollywood Hills over the past three days” and that
“hospital administrators were advised to call 911 if they had
any reason to believe that the health or safety of patients
was at risk.”
The governor’s office said Tuesday “the facility reported to
the AHCA [Agency for Health Care Administration] that they
had power and access to fans and spot coolers.”
Police said a criminal investigation is underway and they are
not ruling anything out.
“This was a terrible incident,” Katz, the director of
emergency services at nearby Memorial Regional Hospital,
said. “The scene was chaotic when I arrived. The fact that
it’s down the street — you know, we don’t have control over
what goes on in that facility.”
Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy said temperatures have climbed to
over 90 degrees in the city and that half of Hollywood is
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said
in a statement that he was “heartbroken” to learn of the
deaths and he is “going to aggressively demand answers.”
“This situation is unfathomable,” Scott said. “Every facility
that is charged with caring for patients must take every
action and precaution to keep their patients safe, especially
patients that are in poor health.”
Scott said he has directed the state Agency for Health Care
Administration and the Department of Children and Families to
work with law enforcement on an investigation. “If they find
that anyone wasn’t acting in the best interests of their
patients, we will hold them accountable to the fullest extent
of the law,” the governor said.
Scott said he is also asking available first responders to
check with their area health facilities to make sure nursing
homes are keeping their residents safe.
The medical examiner’s office said the victims were: Bobby
Owens, 84; Manuel Mario Medieta, 96; Miguel Antonio Franco,
92; Estella Hendricks, 71; Gail Nova, 71; Carolyn Eatherly,
78; Betty Hibbard, 84; and Albertina Vega, 99.
Amber Mickles, whose great-grandmother is a patient at the
nursing home, told reporters she believes her
great-grandmother is OK, but she’s “trying to see exactly
what’s going on because we don’t really know.”
Mickles said she was not notified of any air conditioning
“I can’t even take the heat right now from the air
conditioning down,” she said. “I’m 29, I can’t take it.”
“I feel very sorry for the ones that lost somebody,” she
added. “I think you should’ve had the option to come pick up
your family member.”
The nursing home has faced problems in the past. In the past
three years, the center has had multiple citations for health
deficiencies, according to the Medicare website.
In addition, a report from the Agency for Health Care
Administration found that the center is in the bottom 20
percent for inspection, quality of care and dignity.
ABC News’ Dan Childs, Lauren Pearle, Ben Stein and Jason
Volack contributed to this report.