Four people face charges in the deaths of 12 nursing home residents who were exposed to extreme heat following Hurricane Irma in 2017, a lawyer connected to the case told CNN on Monday.
Arrest warrants were issued for Jorge Carballo, the administrator and CEO, a charge nurse and two other nurses who worked at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, Florida, during the storm, according to Jim Cobb, an attorney who represents Carballo.
“They did their jobs to the best of their ability in a natural disaster emergency,” said Cobb.
Hollywood police will detail their investigation on Tuesday morning.
The other three facing charges are Althia Meggie, Sergo Colin and Tamika Miller. Meggie and Miller are nurses and Colin was the charge nurse.
The charges are the result of an investigation that began in 2017 into the deaths of 12 residents who ranged in age from 71 to 99 years old.
Hurricane Irma was a Category 3 storm when it made landfall on Marco Island on Sunday, September 10, 2017. As the hurricane swept north and east, a falling tree knocked out the transformer powering the air conditioning system in the nursing home in Hollywood, between Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
Elderly residents of the home suffered in the heat for days.
Officials first learned that the patients had experienced hazardous heat conditions on the following Wednesday, but by then eight residents had been confirmed dead. Three more residents died the following week, and a 57-year-old woman died one week after that.
Jail records show that Carballo and Colin face 12 counts each of aggravated manslaughter, neglect of an elderly/disabled adult. Meggie faces two counts of aggravated manslaughter, neglect of an elderly/disabled adult and two counts of tampering or fabricating evidence.
Charges for Tamika Miller are unknown as she is being held by Miami-Dade County on the warrant in Broward County. It was not clear whether she had an attorney.
Attorney Lawrence Hashish said Meggie, who was working as a temp at Rehabilitation Center, was filling in for one day on the night shift during the aftermath of Irma, Hashish said. He said that he does not believe his client should be blamed for the deaths.
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David Frankel, a lawyer Sergo Colin, emphasized at a Monday news conference that the nursing home staff had reached out for assistance.
“These people, did everything they could. They were calling for emergency help. They were promised they were going to get help and they were abandoned,” said Frankel.
He also explained why the staff didn’t declare an emergency sooner: “Everybody was stable until about one o’clock in the morning on Wednesday.” And when visiting family members left, “there were no problems,” Frankel said.
Hollywood police did not immediately return CNN’s call seeking comment.
In the days following the deaths of 12 residents, Gov. Rick Scott set new emergency requirements for the state’s nursing homes.
The measures mandate that nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have supplies, power and resources, including a generator and adequate fuel, to sustain operations and maintain a comfortable temperature for at least 96 hours after a power outage.
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration says 25 out of 687 licensed nursing homes do not have a fully approved, implemented emergency power plan or a variance.
Some 279 facilities have an approved plan that has been implemented and 383 have current variances allowing them additional time to fully implement a plan. “Each facility with an approved variance is required to have an adequate plan to protect patients during a power outage, such as having a temporary generator on site, a plan to obtain a generator within 24 hours of a power outage or a full evacuation plan,” the agency says.
CNN’s Hollie Silverman, Nick Valencia and LaRell Reynolds contributed to this report.