- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

DOVER, Del. (AP) - Federal environmental officials say a pesticide believed to contain a chemical that is prohibited for residential use was applied at a Virgin Islands resort where several members of a Delaware family became seriously ill.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials said Tuesday that methyl bromide is suspected of being used last week at the Sirenusa Condominium Resort in Cruz Bay, St. John, where the Esmond family from Wilmington, Delaware, was staying.

James Maron, an attorney for the family, said Tuesday that Steve Esmond, his wife, Dr. Theresa Devine, and their two teenage sons, were being treated at hospitals in the United States. Esmond is head of the middle school at The Tatnall School, a private college preparatory school in suburban Wilmington. His wife is a dentist.

“Their conditions, while serious, are stable and improving,” Maron’s law office said in a prepared statement. “The boys remain in critical condition.”

The EPA has identified Memphis, Tennessee-based Terminix as the company that applied the chemical.

Michael Wassmer, a spokesman for Terminix, said in an emailed statement that the safety of its customers and employees is a top priority for the company.

“As such, we are cooperating fully with local and federal officials to determine the cause of the incident reported in St. John, “Wassmer said. “At this time, we have limited details so we cannot comment further on the matter.”

Representatives of Sea Glass Vacations, a rental agent for several units at Sirenusa, said in a written statement that it was aware that a family that rented Villa Capri from March 14 to March 22 became seriously ill and were taken to a hospital for treatment.

“The unit immediately below Villa Capri was recently treated for pests by Terminix, however, Villa Capri itself had not been so treated,” the statement read, adding that Sea Glass is committed to fully cooperating with authorities.

EPA spokesman Elias Rodriguez said investigators began collecting air samples Tuesday in the unit where the Esmond family stayed for analysis at an EPA-certified lab in New Jersey. He said it would probably take a week to get the results of the lab tests.

According to warning labels, inhalation of methyl bromide vapors can cause serious acute illness or death, or delayed lung and nervous system injuries. The vapor is odorless and nonirritating to skin and eyes, meaning exposure to toxic levels may occur without warning or detection.


Associated Press writer David McFadden in the Caribbean contributed to this report.


Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., https://www.delawareonline.com

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