“They’re just one of those families that everyone loves to be around,” an acquaintance told an ABC affiliate in the wake of the family’s poisoning. “It’s just horrible.”
Now Terminix International Co. and its operation in the Virgin Islands have agreed to pay $10 million in penalties for using the pesticide, the Justice Department announced this week. The plea agreement, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court of the Virgin Islands, still needs to be approved, a news release says.
“When misused, highly toxic pesticides can have catastrophic consequences, and that’s why those who are certified to apply them must do so responsibly and lawfully,” Assistant Attorney General John Cruden said in the news release.
His statement continued: “The facts in this case show the Terminix companies knowingly failed to properly manage their pest control operations in the U.S. Virgin Islands, allowing pesticides containing methyl bromide to be applied illegally and exposing a family of four to profoundly debilitating injuries.”
The family’s ordeal began when two Terminix employees visited the Sirenusa resort, according to court documents. They “taped and sealed” the kitchen area in a lower-level unit of a building there and released methyl bromide.
The exterminators didn’t know that Esmond, Devine and their sons were staying in the upper-level unit of the building, the plea agreement says. The methyl bromide “migrated” to the upper unit, and a few days later, the family was hospitalized with neurological symptoms.
The teens, who CNN reported had to be placed in medically induced comas, were the worst affected. Esmond reportedly dealt with tremors and had difficulty talking. His wife recovered but was left watching as the rest of her family struggled with devastating health issues.
Recovery from their nerve damage has been slow and agonizing for the whole family, but it’s been the worst for the boys. The brothers were in medically induced comas for weeks. They are now conscious, family attorney James Maron said, but they are barely able to move.Six months after the horrifying incident, their father, Steve Esmond, is slowly getting better as well, but suffers from severe tremors, struggles to speak and can’t turn the pages of a book, Maron said.“Neurologically, it’s like being in a torture chamber,” Maron said.
In this week’s news release, Cynthia Giles of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance said, “When you break a law that protects public health, there are real victims and real consequences, as this case tragically shows.”