A very strange story has no clear ending. As two outlets of a beauty salon where an employee “froze to death” after cryotherapy were shut down by the state of Nevada, no authority appears ready to investigate her demise.
The bizarre death of Chelsea Ake-Salvacion, an aesthetician at Rejuvenice, made headlines after she praised the benefits of the treatment, which entails exposing the body to sub-zero temperatures, to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Yet before her comments were even published, she was found dead — in her salon’s cryotherapy chamber. Medical examiners told her family she died in “seconds” after she entered the machine alone, and her family said she “froze to death.” She was reportedly in the machine for more than 10 hours when her body was found.
“When they found her, she was rock solid frozen,” Albert Ake, Ake-Salvacion’s uncle, told the Associated Press.
Now, the Nevada Department of Business and Industry has shut down two Rejuvenice locations in Las Vegas, including the one where Ake-Salvacion died. Officials said the businesses were operating without appropriate licenses or worker’s compensation policies, as KSNV reported.
“We didn’t even know who they were,” Gary Landry, the executive director of the state cosmetology board, said of the spa owners, as the AP reported. “They had never approached us.” The board fined the owners $1,000.
Employees defended their salon.
“We really don’t listen to what the media is saying we are listening to our managers, our owners, and we just staying close as a company right now holding it together,” Haley Cap, who worked with Ake-Salvacion and said she was her best friend, told KSNV.
Cap also said that her friend’s decision to get the treatment alone was a major factor in her death.
“This isn’t something that would happen to an average patient,” she said. “… You can’t go in the chamber alone. It’s why we are always in there assisting you. We are there for three minutes watching you. Making sure you are okay.”
University Medical Center’s Chief of Staff Dale Carrison agreed.
“It’s like going into an operating room with no help and operating on yourself probably not a good strategy,” Carrison said. “Unfortunately she paid for it with her life.”
Rejuvenice’s representatives weren’t immediately available for comment. However, the company acknowledged its employee’s passing.
“We are all incredibly saddened,” a spokesperson told the Review-Journal. “Chelsea was not only an employee, but a friend to most of us, and a wonderful person with a beautiful soul.”
As Ake-Salvacion’s family, friends and employers mourned her death, Las Vegas authorities seemed at a loss over which authority should investigate it. An autopsy is pending, but police say her death wasn’t suspicious. The Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it is not responsible because Ake-Salvacion wasn’t on the clock when she used the cryotherapy machine. The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services doesn’t regulate cryotherapy. Neither does the Southern Nevada Health District.
Las Vegas’s paper of record summed it up: “Multiple agencies told the Review-Journal they were not responsible for any investigations and that cryotherapy businesses are not regulated like medical clinics or salons.”
Meanwhile, at least one cryotherapy outfit sought to distance itself from Rejuvenice. USCryotherapy of Sacramento offered “heartfelt sympathies to the family and friends of the victim,” but wanted to make something clear.
“We feel compelled to continue to educate the public about our centers and our equipment,” the company said in a statement posted to its Web site. “The incident occurred in a nitrogen cooled unit which we are not affiliated with.”