Last updated: 09:55 AM ET, Mon April 06 2015

Report: Pesticides May Have Caused Family’s Severe Illnesses at USVI Resort

Impacting Travel | Michael Isenbek | April 05, 2015

Report: Pesticides May Have Caused Family’s Severe Illnesses at USVI Resort

Photo courtesy of Sirenusa

A family’s vacation to the U.S. Virgin Islands has turned into a battle for survival after preliminary findings show they may have been poisoned by pesticides, CNN reported.

The Delaware family were staying at a  Sirenusa resort rental villa on the island of St. John two weeks ago, when they fell ill. Paramedics were called when father Steve Esmond was found unconscious, and the boys, ages 14 and 16, along with their mother, Theresa Devine, were having seizures.

The family was airlifted to hospital on the U.S. mainland. Currently, the boys are in a coma, and in critical condition at a Philadelphia hospital, Esmond is conscious but unable to move or speak, and Devine is out of the hospital, but in occupational therapy.

"The boys are in rough shape," the family’s lawyer, James Maron of Delaware, said. "The family are all fighters," he added. "They're fighting for everything right now. I understand it's a long recovery."

Elias Rodriguez, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spokesman, said preliminary test results "do show that there was a presence of methyl bromide in the unit where the family was staying."

"It's an ongoing investigation; we're still on the island doing our assessment," Rodriguez said. "We have been doing different types of air sampling and wipe sampling."

Final test results were expected next week.

Official EPA literature says that exposure to methyl bromide can result in serious health issues, including central nervous system and respiratory system damage.

Because of its acute toxicity, the use of methyl bromide is restricted. It is not allowed to be used indoors, and only certified professionals are permitted to use it in specific agricultural ways.

The EPA is working with local St. John government to investigate whether fumigation at the resort on March 18 is what made the family ill and whether any environmental regulations or laws were violated.

Sea Glass Vacations, rental agent for a number of units at Sirenusa, said the unit directly below the one where the family stayed was recently treated for pests, but not the unit of the family that fell ill.

Sea Glass licenses out pest control in its units to Terminix, a company now under criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Emailing CNN, a spokesman for Terminix wrote that the company is "committed to performing all work ... in a manner that is safe for our customers, employees, the public and the environment" and is "looking into this matter internally, and cooperating with authorities."

"We're thinking about the family, and we join the community in wishing them a speedy recovery," Terminix wrote.

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