A 51-year-old Coconut Creek man was arrested Wednesday and charged with manslaughter and aggravated manslaughter for the deaths of two people in a hyperbaric chamber fire in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea in 2009, authorities said.
Lance Bark was the safety director of the Ocean Hyperbaric Neurologic Center when a chamber exploded on May 1, 2009, causing a fire that killed Vincenza Pesce, 62, and her 4-year-old grandson Francesco Martinisi, according to authorities.
The center's medical director, Dr. George Daviglus, also faces the same charges, as both employees were grossly negligent in failing to maintain the equipment in which Pesce and Martinisi died, the Broward Sheriff's Office said.
BSO deputies arrested Bark Wednesday afternoon at the center, which is now called the Neubauer Hyperbaric Neurologic Center, while Daviglus, 81, of Miami told detectives that he will turn himself in Broward County on Monday with his attorney, the BSO said.
Pesce was holding her grandson inside a tube-like hyperbaric chamber, where he was being treated for cerebal palsy, when the fire was started by static electriciy inside the chamber, the BSO said.
They were engulfed in flames in the nearly two minutes it took to free them, according to the BSO. Pesce died the next day, and her grandson about a month later.
Detective Edwin Tapanes, the lead investigator from the State Fire Marshal’s Office, concluded that both victims “were not properly grounded during their treatment session” because they did not wear required grounding bracelets that would have dissipated static electricity inside the chamber, the affidavit against Bark says. Static electricity was thus unavoidable inside the chamber, and Tapanes said the incendiary blaze occurred because of “gross negligence,” the affidavit says.
The BSO said fault lies with Bark and Daviglus, who failed to have required annual inspections of the chambers and also did not "make sure the patients were wearing the proper attire." They did not properly supervise the patients when they were inside the chamber, and did not know the proper decompression procedures once the blaze began, according to the BSO.
Investigators found various electrical issues with the chambers including burned wiring and soldered exposed wiring, the BSO said.
Investigators also said nobody was in the treatment room overseeing the procedure before the fire began.
"They suffered in there, and they couldn’t get any help,” BSO Detective Frank Ilarraza said. “There was nobody around when this occurred. They tried yelling for help, and they couldn’t.”
Bark was being held at the Broward County Main Jail Wednesday night, according to BSO records.