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Department of Justice Investigating Caribbean Poisoning Incident


Mr. Esmond and his wife Dr. Esmond were hospitalized after being poisoned in the USVI.

News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Tues. April 7, 2015: The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into the company that may have sprayed a potentially lethal pesticide that poisoned a Delaware family of four who were vacationing in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The DOJ is looking into whether a branch of Terminix, the company responsible for the fumigation of the property below one the Esmond family had rented, used the highly toxic chemical methyl bromide to spray for bugs at the Sirenusa Resort on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is illegal indoors in both the U.S. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The condo that Steve Esmond, the head of the middle school at the Tatnall School in Wilmington, Delaware, and his family had rented, was located directly above a property that was recently sprayed for bugs by a branch of Terminix, according to the rental agency Sea Glass Vacations. The spraying occurred on the day of March 19 and by that night, the entire family “started having adverse health effects.”

Esmond and his two teenage sons remain hospitalized in Philadelphia after suddenly falling ill March 20 in Cruz Bay, St. John. His wife, Dr. Theresa Devine, has been was released and is now recovering. The family had rented Villa Capri at Sirenusa Condominium Resort on St. John from March 14 through March 22.

Terminix expressed its concern for the sickened family and vowed to cooperate with the government in the investigation.

“First and foremost, the family is in our thoughts and prayers,” a Terminix spokesperson said in a statement. “We’re cooperating with authorities in their investigation, and we’re conducting our own thorough internal investigation.”

Final test results in the investigation are expected next week.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a March news release that the presence of the highly toxic chemical methyl bromide may have sickened the family. The EPA has launched a “comprehensive investigation” and officials were sent to sample and monitor the apartments to see if any of the pesticide was left.

According to the EPA, methyl bromide exposure can have short-term and long-term effects include severe lung injuries and neurological impairment.

The EPA banned methyl bromide for indoor residential use in but the product is still on the market for agricultural use.