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Nurse charged in Romanian hospital fire to appear in court

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Prosecutors will ask judge Tuesday to hold Cirstea for 29 more days
  • 5 babies died in a fire at newborn intensive care unit
  • Prosecutor: Nurse left the ICU for 12 minutes

Bucharest, Romania (CNN) -- A nurse, charged with "involuntary murder" in the deaths of five newborns killed in a fire at a Romanian hospital, is expected to appear before a judge Tuesday.

At the appearance, prosecutors will ask the judge to place Florentina Daniela Cirstea under arrest so she can be held for the next 29 days.

Cirstea is accused of failing to fulfill duties of her job by not constantly supervising the newborns in the intensive care unit of the Giulesti Maternity Hospital in Bucharest.

Five babies -- two boys and three girls -- died after suffering severe burns in the fire August 16. Six other newborns were injured, authorities have said.

Cirstea is also charged with causing "involuntary serious injuries" in connection with the injured infants, according to Marius Iacob, the chief prosecutor in charge of the investigation.

She left the unit unattended for 12 minutes and then was unable to evacuate and rescue the newborns after the fire broke out, Iacob said.

Surveillance video showed Cirstea also left the intensive care unit several other times during that day, he said.

Iacob said last week that medical staff at the hospital were in another room, apparently having a celebration, when the blaze broke out.

The fire started in an electrical cable attached to the air-conditioning unit of the intensive care room, according to prosecutors' preliminary conclusions. It quickly swept through the room, burning incubators and melting medical equipment.

Another member of the medical staff, not Cirstea, was the one who called for help when the blaze was discovered, Iacob said.

Surveillance camera footage released by the government last week showed medical staff and parents frantically trying to enter the burning intensive care unit, using a chair to break down automatic doors. The doors could only be opened with an access card, which no one had at the time. Seconds later, the hallway filled with smoke.

Iacob said last week that only one person had an access card to open the door -- the nurse in charge, who was not present.

The temperature inside the ICU reached more than 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit), Iacob said last week.

Journalist Cosmin Stan contributed to this report.