Family: Teens still critical 6 weeks after resort poisoning

AP News
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Posted: May 04, 2015 4:24 PM

Two Delaware teenagers are still in critical condition more than six weeks after they were sickened by a banned pesticide that was sprayed at the Caribbean resort where they were staying, their family said Monday.

Sean and Ryan Esmond and their parents fell ill after an applicator working for Terminix used methyl bromide at the resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The teens are hospitalized in Philadelphia. Their father and mother, Stephen Esmond and Theresa Devine, continue to undergo therapy, said the statement, which provided the first update on the family's medical condition in a month.

"The Esmond Family thanks the nation for its outpouring of support and concern for the family's recovery from this unthinkable tragedy of pesticide poisoning during their family vacation," the statement said.

The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Justice and authorities in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are investigating.

The EPA said in April that its probe had found the toxic pesticide was used at the Sirenusa Condominium Resort in St. John several times in the past, and may have improperly been used in Puerto Rico. The agency banned the chemical for residential use in 1984.

"The family is confident that those responsible will be brought to justice," the Esmonds' statement said.

Stephen Esmond is head of a private middle school in Wilmington, Delaware, and Devine is a dentist in the Philadelphia suburbs. The family had traveled to the Virgin Islands for vacation with several other families from Wilmington's private Tatnall School.

Methyl bromide, an odorless and highly toxic gas, can severely damage the lungs and brain. The chemical was applied to a vacant unit directly beneath the Esmonds' unit at the posh resort overlooking Cruz Bay, according to environmental regulators.

The teenagers' prognosis depends on how long they were exposed and how much they breathed in, said Dr. Reynold Panettieri, deputy director of the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology at the University of Pennsylvania's medical school.

"The potential for meaningful recovery is still there," Panettieri, who is not involved in the teens' care, told The Associated Press recently. "As you get farther and farther out, the potential for meaningful survival and living independently is going to become less and less likely."

Terminix, the Memphis, Tennessee-based pest-control firm, previously said it is cooperating with investigators and conducting its own internal inquiry. A company spokesman did not immediately return an email seeking comment on what its internal probe has found.

The Virgin Islands' Department of Planning and Natural Resources has suspended the Terminix applicator's license.

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Associated Press writer Ben Fox in Miami contributed to this report.