A family of four was seriously injured at a Virgin Islands resort recently, leaving both teenage sons unconscious and the father at least temporarily immobile, after they were exposed to a banned and highly toxic pesticide, officials said this week.
Steve Esmond, Theresa Devine and their two teenage sons fell ill more than two weeks ago at the Sirenusa resort in St. John, at a luxury villa where rooms typically go for between $550 and $1,200 a night, according to CNN.
The family had been staying at the villa since March 14. When paramedics responded on March 20, they found Esmond unconscious and his wife and their sons suffering seizures. Devine has since been released from the hospital and is in occupational therapy, family attorney James Maron told CNN. He did not specify how paramedics were notified.
The sons remain unconscious, as of Saturday. Esmond is conscious, but cannot move or speak. All three are now in a Philadelphia hospital.
“The boys are in rough shape … The family are all fighters,” Maron told CNN. “They’re fighting for everything right now. I understand it’s a long recovery.”
Preliminary testing shows the presence of methyl bromide, an acutely toxic and odorless pesticide banned in the U.S. except in limited agricultural settings, in the family’s unit, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told CNN.
The condominium beneath the family had been sprayed with the pesticide on March 18, a resort official told The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware.
The methyl bromide was used to treat “indoor bugs,” an EPA official told the News Journal. The EPA said its investigation is ongoing.
“Because methyl bromide dissipates so rapidly to the atmosphere, it is most dangerous at the actual fumigation site itself,” the EPA explains on its website. “Human exposure to high concentrations of methyl bromide can result in central nervous system and respiratory system failure,” among other side-effects.
Pesticide control was reportedly licensed out to Terminix, who in a Monday filing said it is now being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice, according to CNN. That filing described the family’s injuries as “serious.”
“We’re thinking about the family, and we join the community in wishing them a speedy recovery,” a company spokesman told CNN.
The News Journal additionally reports that Virgin Islands regulators have issued a “stop-use order” against Terminix. They say the company used “Meth-O-Gas” indoors at the Sirenusa resort in October and again on March 18, two days before the family was hospitalized.