A deposition in Tallahassee related to the deaths of a dozen people revealed details from the emergency crews who were at the sweltering Hollywood Hills nursing home numerous times after Hurricane Irma before residents were evacuated.
Officials determined 12 people died due to exposure to the treacherous heat in the 62 hours after air conditioning failed. Temperatures climbed to up to 99 degrees after several days, law enforcement said.
The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills lost power at about 3 p.m. on Sept. 10. Hollywood Fire Rescue teams responded to the nursing home four times in the following three days before all residents were evacuated after a fifth emergency call, the Sun-Sentinel reports.
The Dec. 5 deposition was taken by an attorney hired by the nursing home fighting against the Florida government's move to revoke the license of the nursing home, citing neglect of the elderly.
A Hollywood Fire Rescue member in the sworn interview with the attorney said that she did not specifically recall other patients being endangered by the heat. The member said that though her team noticed it was hot inside of the building, that the rescuers were there to respond to the patient who was the subject of the current 911 call for transport to the hospital.
When asked if it was exceedingly hot, the member said she did "not remember."
“We just responded to the one patient. We were there for the one patient," she said.
When asked about the temperature, she said she did not know how hot it was but that "it was hot enough for us to notice."
She said neither her nor her colleagues noticed any circumstances that should have triggered an evacuation.
The Broward County Medical Examiner’s office ruled the deaths of the 12 patients as homicides with the causes of death attributed to environmental heat exposure, according to a release from Hollywood Police.
The patients who died were identified as Carolyn Eatherly, Gail Nova, Estella Hendricks, Bobby Owens, Miguel Franco, Manuel Mendieta, Albertina Vega, Betty Hibbard, Carlos Canal, Martha Murray, Dolores Biamonte and Cecilia Franco.
The Florida Health Care Association supports Florida Gov. Rick Scott's decision to seek legislation that will require nursing homes to retrofit facilities with generators and fuel supplies to ensure cool temperatures in case of power outages.
“In the end, we believe that the governor’s intent is correct. Nursing homes should have a cooled area of refuge in every nursing home to take care of their residents, period," FHCA representative Bob Asztalos said. "Our hope is that we can work, the governor and us together, and get to a place on the rule and resolve this through the rulemaking process."