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3 people turn themselves in to face charges in Florida nursing home deaths, attorneys say

Three people turned themselves in Monday to face charges in the case of a Florida nursing home where 12 patients died after its air conditioning power went out amid sweltering heat following Hurricane Irma in 2017, their attorneys said. Two of the people who turned themselves in were nurses at the facility.

A total of four people employed at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills at the time of the 2017 deaths were to be charged, including a third nurse, attorneys Jim Cobb and Lawrence Hashish told The Associated Press. They were not sure if the third nurse, who was not represented by the two lawyers, had turned herself in.

Cobb and Hashish also said they were uncertain what charge their clients faced but expected it to be manslaughter. Hollywood Police, who are responsible for issuing the arrest warrants, did not respond to multiple emails and voice messages from the AP.

Patients began dying days after Irma swept through, knocking out power at the home. Investigators said the center did not evacuate patients as temperatures inside began rising, even though a fully functional hospital was across the street. The home's license was suspended days after the storm and it was later closed.

911 calls from Florida nursing home released 01:51

Cobb's client, former home administrator Jorge Caballo, said he and other administrators were repeatedly told before the storm that they could call Governor Rick Scott's personal cellphone directly for help. Cobb said they called five times, but never heard back from Scott.

Cobb said the administrators "sat there languishing waiting for the Calvary to come. ... They never, ever came." Hashish remarked that "the real crime is that the state is looking to blame selfless caregivers and the evidence will show that no crime was committed."

Scott, who now serves in the U.S. Senate, said in a statement that the nursing home should have called 911. "Nothing can hide the fact that this healthcare facility failed to do their basic duty to protect life," he said. "We took steps in Florida to protect our most vulnerable, including requiring all nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have emergency backup power, to ensure a tragedy like this never happens again."

Paramedic Craig Wohlitka and other paramedics from Hollywood Fire-Rescue testified last year that he was haunted by the deaths of patients there. Fire Lieutenant Amy Parrinello said one of the female patients had a temperature of 107.5 degrees, the highest she had ever seen in her 12-year career.

Later that morning, she said, another patient topped that with a temperature so high it couldn't be measured.

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