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Two charged after Florida hyperbaric explosion deaths

27 April 2012

After nearly three years’ investigation, a Florida Sheriff’s Office has filed criminal charges in connection with a deadly hyperbaric chamber incident which took the lives of a young Italian boy and his grandmother.

Vickers hyperbaric chamber
Vickers hyperbaric chamber

The four year-old boy, who suffered from cerebral palsy, had travelled to South Florida from Italy where the treatment is outlawed.

Lance Bark, who was a technician and safety director at the time, and Dr. George Daviglus, who was the center’s medical director, face charges of manslaughter and aggravated manslaughter. The charges were the result of a joint investigation between the State Fire Marshall’s Office and the Broward Sheriff's Office.

Investigators believe the fire was started by static electricity inside the chamber. It took nearly two minutes to free the two, who were completely engulfed in flames.

Investigators noted various electrical issues with the Vickers hyperbaric chambers at the site, including burned wiring and soldered exposed wiring. The chambers were dusty, and some were rigged using electrical extension cords taped together with electrical tape and broken indicator lights on the chamber controls.

Investigators said Bark and Daviglus failed to make the sure the chambers were properly grounded and maintained. They also failed to have the required annual inspections of the chambers and failed to make sure the patients were wearing the proper attire. They didn’t know the proper decompression procedures once the fire started and didn’t properly supervise the patients while they were inside the chamber, according to the sheriff’s office investigation.

In addition, detectives found a 2008 letter to the center detailing age-related problems with the hyperbaric chambers indicating that the employees knew of the problems. The chamber in question was built in 1967 and refurbished in 1984.

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